When my second child, Elijah, was on the way I was quite worried.
Not so much about the usual things – finance, logistics of two kids, ‘will me & wifey get time together?’ etc. – I felt pretty calm about that stuff.
But it was more my capacity to love anyone else in the way I already loved so many other people… I kept thinking: “I love my wifey-lady, Kirsty. I love my son Malachi. I love my friends. I love my wider family. I’m a youth pastor with dozens of teenagers to love (…in appropriate ways and an appropriate amount!).
Particularly with the surge of love I often feel when I look at Kirsty or Malachi (especially when he’s sleeping, but also sometimes when he’s roaring at old people who get too close), I wondered how I could possibly have the capacity to love someone else. Do we, as humans, have a limit on how many people we can actually care about? Is that the problem with the world – that everyone can only genuinely care about (love?), say, 150 or 200 people, then just not care after that? What was my limit? Can I possibly love another son the way I adore my firstborn?”
The answer came to me when Elijah was born. I held him, looked at him and simply coming to a realisation of his perfect uniqueness, his singular potential, his artistic complexity – I realised that my capacity to love is not based upon some cosmic metaphysical amount of love I innately possess that might one day hit it’s limit… My capacity to love is based upon on the way I choose to see each individual human being on this earth in the same way I looked at my son. My capacity to love is based upon the perspective from which I choose to perceive people, not the emotions that result from my interactions.
Every human has the potential to be better, to be creative, fruitful, productive, world changing and beautiful.
So we need to choose to see that potential in others rather than decide whether or not to care for them based on the emotional response their behaviour evokes in us. That’s not to say my son doesn’t invoke intense emotional love in me every time I see him, hold him or hear him, it’s just that my love for him is not limited to being an emotional response.
In one ancient book of wisdom, the writer pens a prayer to God. He writes: ‘I thank you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. All your works are wonderful – how well I know this.’
This seems pretty arrogant really – it could be inferred that the writer thinks he is literally God’s amazing gift to the rest of the human race!
And he’s right. Every human is God’s gift to the rest of humanity.
The band Rend collective have a wonderful lyric in one of their songs. It says:
‘Create in me a pure, pure heart,
Create in me a work of art.
Create in me a miracle,
Something real and something beautiful’
Create in Me (Rend Collective)
That’s what I saw when I looked at my tiny baby Elijah. A work of art. Beautiful because he’s real and filled with potential for perfection despite all of the errors I know he will make and the hurt he will undoubtedly cause to others in this world.
But history shows us that some of the greatest works of art can take a lifetime to create and countless mistakes and attempts to perfect…
So if we, as humans, are divine works of art crafted by the hands of an eternal artist, we must learn to see people’s mistakes, flaws and errors as their unfortunate detours on the road to perfection.
That’s how God sees them. That’s how God sees us. That’s how God sees me.
And He limitlessly loves all of the above as he gently sculpts, crafts moulds and occasionally hammers us into the best ‘us’ we can be.
So is there a limit on how many people you can love? I believe the only limit is how we choose to see every individual we meet.