In 1943, the French Philosopher Jean Paul Sartre wrote Being and Nothingness. Sartre asserted that the thing that makes us human, that which separates us from the animals, is our ability to choose. Even when we don’t realize we are choosing, we are choosing, said Sartre. Our lives are created, day by day, by the choices we make, even when it doesn’t feel that way.
Yet, we spend much of our lives evading responsibility for our lives. We say, for example, “This is the only thing I could do in this situation.” That’s usually a lie. What we are really saying is, I choose this alternative because it was the easiest, or would cause me less pain, or required less risk.
A harried homemaker sprang to the phone when it rang and listened with relief to the kindly voice in her ear. “How are you darling?” it said. “What kind of day are you having?”
“Oh, mother,” said the homemaker, breaking into tears, “I’ve had such a bad day. The baby won’t eat and the washing machine broke down. I haven’t had a chance to go shopping, and besides, I’ve just sprained my ankle and have to hobble around. On top of that, the house is a mess and I’m supposed to have two couples to dinner tonight.”
The mother was shocked and was at once all sympathy. “Oh, darling,” she said, “sit down, relax, and close your eyes. I’ll be over in half an hour. I’ll do your shopping, clean up the house, and cook your dinner for you. I’ll feed the baby, and I’ll call a repair person I know who’ll be at your house to fix the washing machine promptly. In fact, I’ll even call George at the office and tell him he ought to come home and help out for once.”
“George?” said the homemaker. “Who’s George?”
“Why, George! Your husband! …Is this 555-1373?”
“No, it’s 555-1375.”
“Oh! I guess I have the wrong number.”
“Does this mean you’re not coming over?” (Asimov Laughs Again)
A mother’s love for a child, they say, is like having your heart walking around outside your body. Or, motherhood is full of frustrations and challenges, but eventually, they move out. Both sayings point us toward a greater truth – genuine love surpasses our wildest imaginations. Love dials up the wrong number, hears the needy voice of a child on the other end, and still comes over – even for a stranger.
The root of many of the problems in our world s that we make a choice to trap ourselves and others in a win / lose mentality. In order for them to have it their way, we can’t have our way. We choose to have our way even if it means the other has to “go hang”.
The really good news of the universe is that God works in win / win ways. God has enough love to go around. God is daily faced with the voices of strangers when God dials the phones of his children – they live as strangers to the love of God and neighbor by their manner of life, and yet, God still comes over.
What a wonderful portrait of how we are loved by God, as well as a lesson in how each of us ought to love one another – laying down our lives to welcome brother, sister, friend, or stranger.