This Is What Love Looks Like

I have an uncle that I admire. His name is Rick.

You probably don’t know him. But, if you did, you would sense that he’s different.

He’s one of the most loving guys I know. And we can all learn from him.

When he wants to talk to my wife or me, he will call and call until he gets a hold of us. If he can’t reach me, he’ll call my wife. If she doesn’t pick up, he will call me, then her, then me, then her again. And if he still can’t reach us, he will wait a few hours then call us again, even if we don’t call back.

When he finally reaches us, he will ask to see us. There’s no shame or guilt in his tone; he’s not upset that we didn’t pick up or call him back. He seems genuinely happy to talk to us. And while my wife and I are deliberating on when to see him, I will look at my wife and she will look at me, while Uncle Rick is still on the phone–waiting. He’s not pestering us. He’s not shrinking or embarrassed that we are taking our time. He quietly waits.

And then when we eventually say, “Yes, it would be great to see you!” he’s delighted. Even though he had to wait minutes for us to figure out the timing, he didn’t interpret it as us not wanting to see him. He gives us the benefit of the doubt.

When he shows up, he blesses us. He loves on us with his words, big smiles, and kind gestures. He brings gifts for our kids; he wishes us well.

And that whole series of events from calling to showing up hasn’t just happened once, it’s happened multiple times, in one form or another, since my wife and I married.

See, Rick’s a pitbull of love. He doesn’t take no for an answer. He’s not deterred by our indecision, upset by our uncertainty, troubled when we don’t call back. He just keeps coming.

He doesn’t think, “Oh, these people have disrespected me by not calling me back or not picking up or making me wait.” No. He just keeps on loving.

And I love him for it. I can’t help but respect him for it. I admire him and try to imitate him. He inspires me. I’m far from being like him, but I’m trying.

I hope he inspires you, too.

In a world that is broken relationally, we need that type of behavior. We need people who fight for each other, take the initiative, reach out, and give generously. We need more generosity. We need more Uncle Ricks.

What would this world look like if people were more resolute, resilient, resolved, tenacious, unwavering for others? What would we as a people be like if we loved each other through the awkwardness, the pauses, the silence? 

We should all be more like Uncle Rick.

Let’s try today.


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How you can be a good friend when life sucks

Being a good friend isn’t easy, but it’s simple: Just show up.

Last week I went to a funeral for my good friend’s dad. And I’ll be honest there was a part of me that wanted to run, shy away, draw back.

I’m an introvert (maybe you can relate).

Then, there are no guidelines, clear protocols, understandings of how to conduct yourself when you go to a funeral for a friend’s parent.

So I endeavored to do what I could. The moment my plane landed, I texted my friend announcing my arrival. He asked if I wanted to come over to his mom’s. I said yes, of course.

When I got there, I greeted his sister, mom, kids, wife, and of course, him. Some conversation was made. But mostly I sat, and was just there.

Then he and I went out to eat with a couple of his kids, and we talked about all kinds of things: friends, him, me, us, family. And we inevitably talked about death and his dad. It wasn’t scripted. It wasn’t perfect. But it was rich.

After we dropped off his kids, we went out to get a cup of coffee and talk and spend some more time together. We reminisced and shared stories.

I told one about how I almost peed my pants while filming a video for a client in the middle of some random neighborhood in East St. Louis while the client was there, and how I was looking for a bush to go in and then had a brilliant idea to go to a complete stranger’s house and knock on their door to ask if I could use their bathroom. To make matters worse, it was around 630am. And somehow I talked my way into that complete stranger’s house in East St. Louis and used their bathroom, and I thanked God that I didn’t pee my pants in front of our client. He laughed; I laughed; we laughed. Then he shared his own stories, and I almost peed my pants (metaphorically) again. At one point we were crying from laughing so hard at some of our stories, mostly his, my belly hurt. It was magical.

It’s weird how much you need to laugh when there’s so much pain surrounding you, in you. Laughing heals.

Eventually, we made it back to his mom’s place, and I went back in even though I had no idea what to do. I didn’t want to intrude or be a nuisance, but I also wanted to be near and supportive.

They were just moving around as they normally would, and I said that if they needed me to leave that I would. They said, “No, no, you’re fine,” but my insecurities made me feel unfine. After spending some time with all of them, I decided to leave.

The visitation was in a couple of hours, and I still needed to change clothes since I doubted my hoodie, albeit black, would be appropriate garb for the occasion.

After changing, I went to the visitation, said hello, hugged folks, made some conversation, paid my respects, reflected on the deceased, life, my life, death, my death, and moved on. I didn’t leave though. I sat in a wing backed chair, waited, watched, pondered, and prayed. An hour passed and I saw that I wasn’t needed, so I left.

And I thought about what I was feeling and what it meant to be a good friend in a time like this and how awkward I felt and sounded. But I kept on thinking about a conversation I had with my son when he asked me why I was leaving to go out of town again.

I explained to him that friendship is mostly just about “showing up, just being there, that’s often all that matters.” When I said it, I don’t think I knew how true it was.

To be honest, I felt like a dolt much of the time. But I resolved to be present. I didn’t need to talk, say the right thing, in fact, I probably said something stupid; but I was there. And it was all driven by love.

“Love covers over a multitude of sins,” the Bible says. That was very true for me.

No matter how doltish I felt or acted, I still seemed to get the feeling across that all I wanted to do was love. And it was received and welcomed.

When I was younger, another one of my best friend’s dad died, and I didn’t go to his funeral. It was one of the great regrets of my life.

I don’t exactly know why I didn’t. At the time, I would have said something about it being out of town and that I was just there a couple of weeks ago. But that’s lame. I was lame.

I think I was just afraid. I didn’t want to feel unwanted or like an idiot or be doltish. Instead, I acted like a fool and failed as a friend.

This time I wouldn’t.

You see, friendship isn’t about being perfect. It’s more often than not about being present, “just being there, showing up.” It’s about telling embarrassing stories about yourself so your friend can laugh. It’s about being willing to make yourself uncomfortable and just love.

Even if you’re an introvert, insecure, unsure, a dolt (like me), just show up. And magic will happen.

Anyone can be a great friend.

You can, too.

One of the best friends you should have

We are often our own worst enemy because we haven’t learned how to be our own greatest friend: We criticize ourselves when we should encourage, rage against when we should extend peace, yell at when we should listen, hate when we should love. We shouldn’t just be kind to ourselves; we need to support and believe in what we are doing, who you’re becoming.

Are you living for the right person?

We all live for people. But are you living for the right person?

Maybe you became a buttoned-up lawyer because your parents “made” you, when you really wanted to be an artist in paint-covered jeans, flicking the perfect strokes like Bob Ross, but it was too “impractical.” Now, you’re miserable. 

Or, maybe you’re feeling frantic because you never say no. Everyone says that you’re so capable and competent, and you don’t want to let anyone down and cause them to think that you’re not as capable as they think you are. So you’re doing everything: PTA, church groups, Boy Scouts, working late, going out with friends. You go. You do. And as a result you’re beyond overcommitted, and, even worse, you’re burning out. 

Or, maybe you have a significant other whom you love, but you find yourself going wherever they go and doing whatever they do. And you have your own ideas, but you aren’t expressing them. You don’t want to cause waves. You don’t want them to stop thinking you’re the perfect person. So you keep going along with them even if it’s not your true self. 

All three examples are of people who make other people their meaning. 

Maybe you can relate? 

Meaning is the deepest root of our lives. It’s planted in our hearts and sprouts up the reason for our existence. And for many of us, what’s rooted in our hearts are people, others, parents, friends, even strangers. 

There’s one major problem with that. 

People are fickle and impossible to please. They change their minds, are emotional, get in funks, are funky. And saddest of all, they die. That makes trying to impute the meaning of our lives into people, even our loving parents, insufficient. People aren’t enough. 

Now, don’t hear what I’m not saying. Parents, friends, others, should influence us. Their well-meaning words should be considered. We should take others’ advice.

But if you make your entire life about pleasing them, you are going to go for a ride you don’t want to go on. Because people are difficult to please—impossible, really—you won’t ever find them fully pleased by what you do. 

I’m also not saying that we should stop doing things to please people. If we do that, we probably wouldn’t keep a job, have friends, grow a marriage, be human. It’s natural to want to please people, good, even. And the reason we try to is found in this idea. 

We all want to be, not only accepted and loved, but favored. 

Many of us may not be familiar with that word, favor, but it’s what we really want, pine for. It’s more than just people saying that you’re good, or that they like you. Sure we want to be loved. But this is different than that, but not any less desired, needed.

You see, we’re dying to be seen. It’s that sense of recognition from your friends, colleagues, parents that you so desperately want, that they are not just looking at you, but see you. And they gush over you. They embrace you physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. You aren’t just loved and accepted; they are proud of you. You are the apple of their eye, their treasure, treasured, esteemed. You are delighted in: Favored. 

But because we seek favor ultimately from people—fickle, inconsistent, and emotionally driven beings—we only get a nibble of what we truly want. It’s a morsel, not the meal; it’s the hors d’oerves, not the main course. It won’t satisfy our appetite because it’s not meant to. Without the entrée, it will frustrate us and leave us hungry. 

The issue that we run into with placing our meaning ultimately into the hands of people is that their hands are not big enough to hold it. 

What we should do is find the right person who can carry it. 

From my experience and learnings, the only person that is capable of carrying our meaning for us is God. 

He is the feast we are looking for. He is the person who can feed us what will truly satisfy. He’s not just the meal but also the dessert. He is ultimately the only person capable of carrying our meaning.

God is faithful, unchanging, consistent, true, good, loving, all-seeing, and all-knowing. He will not die. He is the ultimate person, with greater celebrity than Beyoncé and Jay-Z put together, more powerful than the US President, more royal than the Queen of England, and wealthier than Jeff Bezos. 

And he sees you

And all of the accolades, respect, honor, and fame that we pine for is found in spades in God. He’s the only true wellspring of favor. 

Root yourself in him.

He satisfies. 

 

Confessions of an introvert: unexpected events at a barbecue

Walking into a room full of people can be hard. A party isn’t just a party, especially if you’re an introvert like me. They are work.

But it’s summer in the city, and people want to barbecue. And I got invited to one in Brooklyn.

Usually, I would have stayed safely at home, giving an excuse about needing to take care of our newborn (children are always the perfect leave-me-alone-I’m-an-introvert card). But this day I felt like it would be good to put myself out there and connect.

When I arrived at the beautiful rooftop, a breeze was blowing, and the weather was unseasonably cool for an evening in August; but the crisp air was magical in the midst of the canvas of twinkling city lights surrounding us like the stars in the night. 

About fifteen guys broken into smaller groups of two to four were drinking beer, talking, and getting ready to devour meat. They were friendly, but not all were my friends. Not because they weren’t good guys, I just didn’t know them well enough yet. 

There were some I knew better than others and would even call them friends. But I didn’t expect them to treat me the way they did. They ignored me. 

At one point, one of them reached around me to throw something away but didn’t even bother to say hello. I had to remind myself that I had been invited, even though it felt so uninviting.

The night wasn’t a complete disaster. There were two good conversations with a couple of people I didn’t know well, and hearing their stories was a privilege. It felt as though I might have made two new friends. 

As the hours wore on, my bed’s call to me transformed from gentle wooing to shouting; resisting was too hard, so I left. 

And as I walked home, I reflected on the time, the interactions, and the lack of them. Gratitude filled me as I thought about the conversations had, but I couldn’t help thinking about the friends who seemingly ignored me. It was hard not to blame them. It was what they did to me. 

But then an unsettling thought occurred to me: I didn’t greet them either. I didn’t walk up to them and say hello. I wasn’t inviting; I wasn’t friendly. 

Furthermore, I said to myself, “Maybe they are introverts like me, where a party isn’t just a party but an inner battle. Maybe they were working through their own issues, and none of it had anything to do with me; and it was just me being self-absorbed and petty. Maybe. Probably.” 

A new voice filled my mind. It was a mentor’s. “Those who extend friendship have friends; those who don’t won’t,” he told me once when I was a college student. 

Two decades later, I’m still learning this lesson:

To have friends, you must be one.