Chewing Gum

On Sunday I was sitting in church with my friends Jed, Tage and Faith, and Jed’s parents, Joe and Jenny. Joe and Jenny are leaders in the church and bring a sense of groundedness and peace that I really appreciate and admire. I imagine that they are pretty busy taking care of important church business, but they never act like it. In fact, they’re the type of people who are always willing to just stop and chat and really, truly listen to what you have to say. They’re the type of leaders that you need in a church.

In the middle of the sermon, Jenny  got out a pack of bubble gum and passed it down the row, each kid taking a strip. The bubble gum passing took me back to sitting in the yellow pews of Auburn Nazarene, staring at the stained glass and looking at the ceiling, trying to make sense of this Jesus and why He mattered. And it reminded me of my friend Pam who always had a pack of gum to pass around in the middle of the sermon. Most of the time it was the kind of gum that popped out of the plastic packaging, which my mom never bought, so this gum seemed extra special. In fact, I think that almost anytime I was with Pam she was passing a package around. She was the queen of chewing gum. Maybe it was because we all had stinky kid breath (we did), but I think there was something more to it than that.

As I’ve thought about chewing gum and what it meant to share it, my friends Andy and Marie came to mind. They used to have a house with a swimming pool, and based on the stories I’ve heard it sounds like kids used to just drop by all summer long. Andy and Marie didn’t care, they just wanted kids to be able to escape the heat, come over and swim. I can imagine that many of those kids thought of Andy and Marie as second parents, sharing their life’s troubles and getting advice from two people who deeply care for others. Over the past year Andy and Marie downsized and they don’t have a pool anymore, so they decided to buy a boat. (Well, two boats, but that’s another story.) Why did they buy a boat? “Because we want to bless people,” Marie said.

There’s something really amazing and beautiful and remarkable and something I can’t quite put my finger on when I think of gum-sharing and boat-buying. But it’s something I want. I want a heart like my friends Jenny and Pam and Andy and Marie. I want to carry extra gum and buy a boat and do something ridiculous and irrational in the name of love. I want to do something to bless people for the sheer reason that I’ve been loved beyond all measure. And because it matters. It matters to give up your time and money and resources and energy. It matters to share our gum and our boats and our hearts and our fears and our celebrations. It matters because when we do these things we step a little bit closer into the kind of relationships God planned for us to have, the kind that were present in the Garden of Eden and the kind that are waiting for us in heaven.

Ridiculous and irrational love is the Love that came as a humble baby and lived a perfect life and died the death I deserved. And it’s the Love that conquered death once and for all, claiming victory over the grave, promising eternal life for all who believe. So with that in mind,  keep sharing your gum. Buy a boat and take your friends on the lake. Answer the phone when your friend calls at 2am.  Hang on to the things that matter, the things that God’s heart beats for. Being loved means we have a whole lot of love to give.

“For in Him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things; whether on earth of in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.” Colossians 1:19-20

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13