I’ve never been a great fan of the Stephen Stills song Love the One You’re With. It’s catchy enough and has a nice hook to it, but I’ve always found the message troubling.
My take on the song is as follows: The woman you love is away. It’s ok. Don’t get lonely and down-hearted because there’s someone else who can take her place… After all, we do live in a consumer society.
You may read something else into the song, but that seems to be the gist of it for me. Hardly a song about fidelity and enduring love.
There is, however, an element of truth to the song.
I’m not talking about being unfaithful. But we can often bemoan lost opportunity and close off to the world when there is opportunity all around us to embody the love of Jesus in word and deed.
This is less about taking a new door as it is about making the most of every opportunity on the way.
To be honest, I am far better at opening and walking through doors than I am at making the most of what’s behind the door once I’ve ventured through.
One of my favourite poems has always been The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. I relate to his conundrum but I also delight in it. Should we take this path or that one? What an exciting choice! I will labour it. I will pray about it. But I enjoy the process. I don’t labour it for fear of the the wrong choice instead I enjoy the choice and where it may lead. I tend to know quite quickly which path to take. So I enjoy standing at the crossroads before I venture forth.
What I need to be far better at is making the most of each opportunity as I travel the path. I’m too busy journeying down the path and looking for the next turn or the excitement of the next fork in the road, rather than pausing to jump in puddles. Pausing to take in the majesty of the trees that line the road. Pausing to help a bird back into its nest. Not that I don’t appreciate those things. Not that I don’t think those things are important. My challenge is that I don’t always notice because I’ve got somewhere to be.
Look ahead! There’s another turn coming in the distance that I’m going to need to navigate. I revel in the upcoming turn more than I appreciate the mystery of everything going on around me as I head to the turn.
The parable of the Good Samaritan speaks to this.
I love the demonstration of love for enemies (especially cultural ones) in this parable because this speaks to my DNA and passion. But it’s not this aspect that challenges me as much as how it speaks to pausing and making a difference on the path already taken.
The man who is brutally beaten and robbed is on a path. He knows where he’s going – from Jerusalem to Jericho. There’s a Pastor who is on a similar journey too. He quickly assesses the sutuation. He determines that it will be more expedient to take a slight detour on the path in order that he can continue on his journey rather than pause and fulfill a practical aspect of his vocation. This speaks to moral fall, but that’s a whole other post. So too a Worship Leader, possibly following the Pastor, makes a similar choice (again, for another time).
The Samaritan, the cultural and religious enemy of the man that is dying on the side of the road, is traveling somewhere too. Yet, his response is vastly different to those that have come before him. His response is one of deep mercy and compassion.
He doesn’t know this man, but he knows this man is his enemy. His entire upbringing and lived experience tells him that. The man lying before him, half dead, thinks his people are dogs. He should pause only to spit on him and keep walking. Instead, he is filled with mercy and compassion and this mercy and compassion causes him to respond in love.
His detour is not one of expedience, his detour is one of unexpected kindness and undeserved love.
Ponder this for a moment.
Are there small detours of opportunity that you can make each day, driven by mercy and compassion, that would outwork in unexpected kindness and undeserved love?
What would that look like? Whose life might that impact? What good could that bring?
This is my personal challenge. To be willing and available to take little detours in my day, pauses along the side of the road, that may seem inconvenient to me but may just save someone’s life.
Rather than “if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with” I should really be singing… “because of the one you love (Jesus, who loved you first and who goes with you), love the one you’re with (knowing that He will make straight your path)”
Probably a bit wordy and less popular, but far closer to the truth.
What about you? Care to join me?
Oh LORD! Should I ever weep for lost opportunity may it be more for failing to pause long enough to demonstrate unexpected kindness in someone’s life and less for failing to prepare enough to take the next corner or reach my destination in time.