Russell and Duenes

You Have to Look

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Something in me, dark and sticky, all the time it’s getting strong.  ~ Peter Gabriel

If you want to love, you have to look. One thing I’ve found in my study of the law is that, if you want to know what the law says, you have to look and look and look. As my Oil and Gas law professor says, sometimes you need to read a case twenty times to really get it. But not only will you get it, you might come to love it. There are cases that I will look at again and again, simply because I love the issue at hand, and so I look. Loving anything requires intentional, sustained looking. What do pro athletes spend gobs of time doing? Looking. Looking at their swing, looking at other people’s swings, looking at pitchers, looking at game film, looking at plays, looking for any little tendency or tic that might give them an edge. What do scientists who love their work do? They look and look, looking for some microbe, some bacteria, some chemical combination that might unlock the cure.

But the hardest thing to love is people. Perhaps that sounds wrong; yet it may only sound that way because perhaps we’ve done so little loving. Sure, we like lots of people, and we enjoy hanging around with them, but loving requires something more, something antithetical to our natures, something derailed by that “dark and sticky” thing called sin. I see that if I want to love my wife, really love her as Jesus commanded, namely, deny myself, take up my cross and love her, I must do something that, in theory I want to do, but in practice waxes and wanes. For I am not inclined to “look outward,” but rather, to my own selfish desires.

Yet as with all loves, what is required is intentional, sustained looking. I must look at my wife, study her. I must look at her face (not hard to do, as beautiful as she is) and see what it tells me. I must listen carefully to her words, to what she is telling me and not telling me. I must look and hear the tone in her voice, the subtle hints of joy, contentment, surprise, anger, despondency and pain. I must see what runs her down and what lifts her up. I must observe, observe, observe. I must never assume, “Well, I’ve got her now, she’s my wife, so I’ll just go about my own business.” I must see what occupies her time, what she gives herself to. Perhaps I will encourage it, or perhaps I will lovingly challenge it insofar as it may tend away from the glory of our Lord. I must look at how she relates to me, to other family members, to friends and colleagues. But the looking must be intentional, and it must be sustained over long years.

Is this an obsession? Would I be stalking my own wife? No. It does not mean that I will do nothing but watch her every move, but if I rarely look, I cannot love. What we pay no careful, sustained attention to, is what we are indifferent about, even if we protest and say otherwise. But this “looking” in order to love is a supernatural thing. It requires utter lack of self-concern. It requires a God-entranced life. It’s like the story that John Piper once told about his old mentor, Daniel Fuller. In the office where Fuller worked, there hung a picture of Fuller himself. One day, Fuller walked in and asked, “Who is that a picture of? Reinhold Niebuhr?” (They look similar). To which his secretary replied, “No, that’s you!” Fuller had essentially forgotten his own image, because he was always looking elsewhere. And yet, this supernatural looking is one of life’s greatest rewards, for only then will we be able to move in wise and godly ways in the life of those we claim to love.



Written by Michael Duenes

August 17, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Posted in Duenes, Russell

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