Over the Christmas holidays, our extended family gathered for the first time in four years. The arrangements weren’t simple; including accommodation for 16 people and international flights and the ages in the group ranging from 5 to 75. One of my siblings (who is very organized) produced a shared ‘Google Doc’ months ahead of the gathering listing possible meals we could cook, activities we could do together and trying to pinpoint individual preferences.
However, a couple of days before we got together, my other sibling sent a message saying that planning too much in advance took away from the fun and spontaneity of being on holiday- we should just figure things out as we went along. They were both right (in a way) but it showed how different our approaches to life and the way we do things in our own families can be, despite our shared DNA. (And it all turned out OK – we had a great time.)
I’m writing on the eve of a significant birthday, the kind of number that makes me look back at choices I’ve made and the distance I’ve travelled. It’s also the kind of number that challenges me, like the question in Mary Oliver’s poem ‘The Summer Day’:
‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’
Perhaps this is part of my midlife crisis but I’ve had some thoughts this week about what God is like. I’ve remembered that Jesus offers the world self-giving love, emptying himself to live among us, pouring out his love to the point of death. God sacrificially gives the greatest thing that God can give.
That’s extraordinary enough in it’s own right, but a little line from the song ‘Reckless Love’ caught my attention this weekend: ‘still you give yourself away’. It’s one thing to marvel about sacrifices made in the past, but this is talking about God giving himself away in the present tense. It’s talking about vulnerable, costly love that God continues to have for us.
Not to be too morbid about it but I wonder if it hints at the call for the next stage in life’s journey: giving myself away. What if I could aspire to live in a way that was less about counting the cost and more about sharing all that I have with the world?
Life is unpredictable and although we may be great at planning or spontaneous, there’s no way of knowing what comes next. What doesn’t change is the love that is offered from God’s own self and the chance to reach out a hand and see where the adventure leads next.