Can you get too much of a good thing? Jacob and Allison are taking a few days off in Costa Rica. (Doris and I are hoping to vacation in Shelbyville, but that’s a whole other blog.) They asked us to keep Caleb for 5 days. Now, if you follow me at all, you know Caleb is my youngest grandson, just turned 2, and I am crazy about him. When he is in the room, I forget about everybody and everything (except Jon-Mical and Jakson) and he is the center of my universe. When he leaves our house, I tell stories about him. When they say they are bringing him over, I wait like a little kid on Christmas to hear their car in the driveway. BUT…I refer you back to their original request, 5 days!!!
This whole experience has me asking, can you really get too much of a good thing? That is more than a rhetorical question. There are some deep, psychological, and spiritual applications to the answer. For example, this week I have been posting some Instagram quotes about love. It’s the week of Valentine’s Day. We are all thinking about love. This is a good time to talk about it. We say things like, “Love is all you need.” (Actually, the Beatles said that.) We quote Paul when he says, “The greatest of these is love.” And who can forget old EBB when she asked, “How do I love thee?” Love is pretty much the best thing going, especially this time of the year. So, can you get too much of it?
Well, no. And yes. At least when love is expressed the wrong way. Let me give you 3 examples. First, love that creates a loss of self is not love but co-dependency. I see often that wife that has lost her identity and her way in being a wife and mother until she comes to an existential crisis and begins to ask, “Is that all there is?” Love is a gift that I give from my whole, healthy heart. If I don’t know who I am or take care of me, I cannot truly love. Jesus said, “Love your neighbor AS YOU LOVE YOURSELF.” Apparently, love for the other person is best when I begin by loving me.
Now, to be honest, while I see that often the greater offense of love is just the opposite. Love that is so self-centered that it leaves no room for anyone else is not love but narcissism. All of us have known that person who still believes the whole universe centers on them. That’s okay when I’m 2-year-old Caleb. But I have grown men who come to Branches because every relationship they have is unsatisfying and unsustainable. After a closer look, I realize that the problem is not the other people but the selfish, self-absorbed guy in my office. Psychologists would say true NPD, narcissistic personality disorder, is uncurable. That may be true but many of those guys don’t have a personality disorder. They have a heart disorder. Go back to Jesus’s words, that He went out and demonstrated, “Greater love has no man than this, that He lay down His life for His friend.”
Well, finally, somewhere in the middle of all of that is the love that isn’t about self, isn’t fully lost in the other person, but doesn’t know how to set boundaries, and be assertive when necessary. That love is not love but just being a doormat and allowing intrusiveness at least, and perhaps abusiveness to live in the relationship. Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple. He told the forgiven, adulterous woman to, “go and sin no more.” And He said to perhaps His favorite disciple, “Get behind me, satan.” Love forgives and tries to forget. Love is sacrificial. But love sets boundaries. I love Caleb but this week I have had to say “no” a lot. Well, a few times. Well, okay, maybe once. But that’s not the point.
Can you get (or give) too much love? I don’t think so. The world would be a better place if we all worked at that more. But love received or given in the wrong way is unhealthy, unsafe, and un-Christlike. Take a look at your “loving” this week and let God bring it under His control.
And the answer to Caleb, can I have too much of him? Definitely not!