Whenever our children got caught playing with matches Kathie would do two things. First, she would explain the danger of playing with fire. Second, she would drive her point home by sharing a childhood memory.
Kathie’s grandfather lived with her family when she was young. He would spend hours looking out the kitchen window, smoking his pipe. Everyday, Kathie’s mother Millie would fuss, “Pappy! Get away from the window with that pipe, you’re gon’na catch those curtains on fire!” Her grandfather would walk over to the kitchen table, sit down, and take a few more puffs from his pipe. As soon as Millie left the room, Pappy would wander back to the window.
It was a Saturday morning while Millie was shopping for groceries, when Kathie and a friend chased away their boredom by playing with a box of matches. One by one, they would strike a match, throw it in the kitchen sink, and watch it burn. It was all fun and games until one of the matches landed on the curtains. Shortly after the fire was brought under control and the smoke settled, Kathie’s mom returned home. As she walked into the kitchen, arms loaded down with bags of groceries, she shrieked, “I knew that old man was gon’na burn those curtains!” Kathie looked at her mom. She looked at the curtains. And then, she looked at her Pappy. Without a second thought, she threw the “Old Man” under the bus. She let Pappy take the blame.
No one knows if Pappy thought he burned the curtains and simply forgot about the fire or if he took the blame because his heart burned with passion for his granddaughter. We do know he didn’t justify himself; nor did he deny setting the curtains on fire. I believe it was his love for Kathie that kept him from speaking up. He was willing to take the heat on her behalf. Love works that way.
Jesus told his disciples that the greatest expression of love anyone can make is to lay down their life for their friends. Right after he said that, Jesus looked them straight in the eye and said: “You are my friends!” I think he probably winked as he said it. The passion Jesus has for every person on the planet motivated him to lay down his life as a living sacrifice. He did it to burn away all of the sin and every stupid mistake we’ve made, or ever will make.
God is crazy in love with people. God’s heart burns with passion. In the life of Jesus we learn that God will go to any lengths to make that love known in the world in order to mend all that is broken. Dorothy Day once said, “Love and ever more love is the only solution to every problem that comes up. If we love each other enough, we will bear with each other’s faults and burdens. If we love enough, we are going to light a fire in the hearts of others. And it is love that will burn out the sins and hatreds that sadden us. It is love that will make us want to do great things for each other. No sacrifice and no suffering will then seem too much.”
Larry Stoess is an author, public speaker, and urban church planter. He loves telling stories about how dreaming with God will empower people to make old and broken things new again. Larry and a band of friends founded the Church of the Promise in Louisville's Portland neighborhood; The Table, a pay-what-you-can community café; and Promise Housing Plus, a non-profit construction company. He has written about their experience of dreaming with God in his new book: Think Red.