Plastic Fuzzy

When I was young, there was nothing more important to me than my friends. I spent a lot of my energy making sure that I was in the group, accepted and loved. My friends didn’t come from the “country club” side of town. They weren’t the rich, the popular, or the honor roll kids. My parents objected to some of my friends, and I resented it.

I would like to say that love held us together, but it wasn’t love. The Beatles came on the scene and suddenly we had heroes that we could emulate. We began to grow our hair in a long Beatle style, and dress like the Beatles. Of course, we discovered marijuana and we bonded around it. Curiously, some of the country club kids began to come around to join our party. We often took trips to the principal’s office to be threatened with expulsion if we didn’t cut our hair and dress differently. Altogether, it gave us a sense of solidarity.

Over time, it became clear that it wasn’t love that held us together. Almost all of those so-called friends are not in my life and I am not in their’s. We never really cared enough to stay in touch.  The same applies for most of the college friends that I had.  In truth, it seems that our relationships were shallow and plastic. Maybe I’m a romantic because I always thought that if love was real, it would last. The Beatles sang, “All you need is love,” and then broke apart over money and control. 

St. Paul must be a romantic as well because he wrote “Love never fails.” I’ve felt what I thought was love, and it most certainly failed. I’ve had people tell me that they love me, and that love failed as well.  So love can fail, or what I thought was love wasn’t love at all. St. Paul also wrote that love should be genuine and without hypocrisy, so there is real love and there is fake love, too.

I heard this analogy many years ago: real love feels like a warm fuzzy. When my wife hugs me and tells me that she loves me, I know  its real love and it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside (BTW, she’s been doing this for about 37 years now). When I take the time to consider how much God loves me, I get the same feeling because despite my constant failing and falling away, He remains faithful to his love for me (BTW, he’s been putting up with me longer than my wife has).

The Old Testament has a word for genuine love, one that never fails: Hesed. Hesed love is God’s covenantal love. When God makes a commitment to us, his commitment is eternal. No matter how many times Israel fell away, God remained faithful to his part of the covenant. I had a real warm fuzzy when I was baptized because I felt the genuine love of God for me. God made an eternal covenant with me that day. I’ve come to understand how unfailing that love is. Sadly like Israel, I have been faithless to my baptismal vows, yet God has remained true. Every time I go to confession, God renews my baptism and sets me up on my feet again. Now that is real love.

So, I should be a good son, and be like my Father. Like Him, my love should be genuine, without hypocrisy and never failing.

Most of the time, my love is  fake love. Fake love looks like a warm fuzzy, but it feels plastic and not really fuzzy. Here’s an example – I’m sure you’ve had these kinds of conversations. You tell someone, “Let’s get together for dinner.” They reply, “Oh, sure. Ah, let me check my schedule and as soon as I have a free day, I’ll call.”  Ugh! Plastic fuzzy. 

I would like to be able to say that since I’ve been Orthodox my love has always been genuine. I would also like to be able to say that those who were Orthodox have loved me without hypocrisy. I’d like to be able to say so, but I cannot. So often my love has been shallow and plastic and hypocritical. On the other hand, I have had those who said they loved me, and then stabbed me in the back on their way out.

Besides warm fuzzies, and plastic fuzzies, there are also cold pricklies. A cold prickly makes you feel really bad. There’s no denying a cold prickly. Unlike the plastic fuzzy, it is what it is.  I had a few of those in my life. I remember times when a teacher would give me that cold scowling look and I would feel really bad. There are times when I really hurt my wife, and she would look at me with that pain in her eyes, and I really felt that cold prickly. Of course, I had just given her one, and she was returning it to me. I try to not give cold pricklies but sadly I often give plastic fuzzies.

Because our love is not genuine and lasting, the church does not grow spiritually or numerically. Without genuine love, there is no real community. How is genuine love demonstrated and experienced? Again, St. Paul has an answer in Romans 12. Genuine love hates evil and clings to what is good. Genuine love is expressed with affection. Genuine love honors others above self. Genuine love is not lazy, but is fervent in service. Genuine love rejoices and is patient. Genuine love seeks to meet the needs of others and is hospitable. Genuine love rejoices when others rejoice and weeps when others weep. 

Genuine love builds the church by building  up the members of the church.  We should realize that this will not occur on plastic fuzzies. There are simple ways that we can test if love is genuine. When is the last time you invited a member of the Church to your house? When was the last time anyone invited you? What do you know about those who stand next to you? Have you ever bothered to learn their story; do you know their joys and sorrows? Do you pray for them, or do they pray for you? Whose burdens have you every carried lately?

I wonder if I will ever have genuine love. God invites me to spend time with him, but I say “Lord, let me check my schedule, and when I have a free moment, I’ll call you.” Plastic! He invites me to his Feast, but I cannot come because I’m busy with bills, concerns and commitments. So, I tell the Lord that when I get things in order, I’ll be glad to come. Plastic!

It would be a hopeless situation if not for the fact that  I am pursued by the love of God. The “hounds of heaven” chase me and they will not leave me alone (check the 23rd Psalm -or the 22nd in some versions). They even have names: goodness and mercy” and they have followed me all the days of my life. Down every dark trail that I have chosen, they bark and nip at my heels until I turn from my hypocrisy. They show me God’s hesed love, never failing, never ending, and willing to go to the Cross for my sake.

I pray that someday, the love of God in Christ Jesus, a love so faithful and true, will melt all the plastic in my heart and give me genuine love.

“Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and put a right spirit within me.” Warm fuzzies! Make it so, Lord.

5 Responses to “Plastic Fuzzy”

  1. nichole3 Says:

    Wonderful! And so True! I’m of the Beatle generation, too.

  2. father john Says:

    Yeah, didn’t they sing..All you need is love?”

    and then shortly thereafter broke up.

    Thanks for the responses, Nichole.

    Fr. John

  3. Jeff Says:

    That made me feel warm and fuzzy. Great job Fr. John.

  4. Bro Timothy Says:

    Father Brother,

    Wonderful work. As you know I do enjoy the music of the Beatles but not everything they stood for. I have asked Church members to have dinner and I got exactly the response you wrote!!

    God Bless

    Bro Timothy

  5. Tilly Says:

    That warm fuzzy is always waiting for us if we let Him guide us. I’m glad that you do not like the plastic fuzzy, it is only good for show. Having Jesus is better than thermal underwear for the warmest feeling that will help you grow and glow.:)

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