Thursday, March 20, 2014

Love by example

When I was much younger and thought I had it all figured out, I was asked to give a talk on leaders to a group of men on a spiritual retreat. I used as the basis for my outline a book by Andrew Murray, titled Humility. Based on the wisdom of Philippians 2, this book lays out the simple life matrix of considering others before yourself, of loving sacrificially. And in the case of leaders, I argued, it means leading by example.

As I was making my morning pot of coffee, I was thinking about my girls who lay in their beds asleep, taking full advantage of the fact that it's spring break and they have no reason for which to set their alarms. In all my life, I've never taken to the concept of sacrificial love or employed it as I have with them. Those two precious souls are the lights of my life! I'd do anything for them, short of remarrying their mother. I'd step in front of a moving train if it meant saving their lives. I'd fight off a pack of hungry wolves, take a bullet or hurl myself into a raging sea...but most fathers would do the same.

It was while pouring my first cup of coffee that I had this thought about loving sacrificially and displaying that gift before my girls. Just as any leader would do, blazing a trail with his actions, not only his words, I determined that I would continue loving them by example.

In my doing so, they will not only see and feel what love is, they will come to understand a very key element to life. There are things in this life much bigger than us. Love, for example. Love is a transcendent concept. It is as critical to human beings as the air they breathe. But it is not just a bunch of sentimental ideas meant to make us feel good. It is tangible and real. It is meant to be experienced--touched by all of our senses and not just our hearts. It's more than a bunch of words in a blog or on a greeting card. It's in the mundane details of life, like a simple meal.

My youngest always tells me that the single most important ingredient in every meal I cook for her is love. She's only 9 and she's as wise as the Buddha. It's love.

Love, expressed in such a way that leaves no doubt in the person's mind, is the kind that is lived out daily. It might be secured with frequent confirming messages. "I love you," is something we don't say nearly enough. But it is amplified to soul-shattering levels when acted out in humility.

Back to the men's retreat some 20+ years ago and I'm talking about leading by example. I was telling the men to be the kind of leaders that the author Andrew Murray would be proud to write a book about, men who lead by humility, kinda like the guys who were serving on that retreat weekend as toilet scrubbers. Some of the dorm-keepers on that weekend were accountants, attorneys, sales executives and corporate leaders, yet they didn't think it beneath them to scrub a dirty toilet. And why did they do it? To show the other guys, not just about leadership, but about love.

Thinking back on that this morning, I came to realize that I've been loving my girls by example. I am their pack leader and that's my job. Upon that realization, I searched the web for an image that said "love by example" and the image at the top of this blog post is what I found. I obviously wasn't the first person to think of it, but I'm glad that I did. It's a transcendent concept. And in 45 years on this Earth, I've learned that not everyone gets it. Not everyone lives by the rule of humility, or understands what it means to sacrificially love someone else. I'm reminded by my daughters all the time what that means. And I'm committed to doing my best to love them by example.

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