It was early Sunday morning at Lakeside, Ohio, where I had gone to spend the week writing. Since it was before the “season” officially opened, the quaint town was quiet, peaceful. I was walking when I spotted the small church on the corner. I decided to slip in for a minute. The wood paneled interior and stained glass windows were breathtaking. The single light shining on the altar gave the empty sanctuary a sense of, well, holiness. I was moved…
So moved that I decided to attend the service later that morning. But as I entered “His gates with thanksgiving” my delight was short-lived. As people filed into the pews, the room that had earlier palpated with his presence didn’t feel holy anymore. Instead, it resonated with fallen creatures just like me.
People. Human beings. We are the pinnacle of God’s creation. We are its blemish. Francis Schaeffer once referred to man as a “glorious ruin.” Glorious because we are created in his image; ruined because of the fall. We experience the heights of love and creativity as well as the depths of depravity. Our relationships to one another encompass the very sweetest of life’s experiences but also the most bitter.
How do we keep relationships in proper perspective? How do we resist the temptation, on one hand, to elevate the dearest and nearest to idol status or on the other, let another’s failures drive us behind walls of isolation?
Scripture exhorts that “a friend loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17). Jesus taught that there was no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend (John 15:13). Yet at the same time, he did not entrust himself to man because he knew what man’s human nature was like (John 2:24). He was fully aware of our fickle, ignoble ways, but his love for us never lessened…even to death.
That’s the kind of love God wants us to nurture. It’s large. It values the glorious and has grace for the ruined. It takes us through the ebb and flow of human interactions, and provides borders of security—borders that broaden the more we love Him. For as CS Lewis notes, the answer in relationships lies not in loving others less but in loving God more.
He alone enables us to love largely with a passion so great that even glorious ruins can be transformed into a holy sanctuary.