Have you ever felt like you over-complicate life? That in the pursuit of your dreams (whatever those may be) the pursuit itself prevents you from ever reaching the goal? That you try too hard to attain what is so hard to get?
Over the centuries, much has been said and written and sung about this search for life’s meaning or “purpose.” Some of it good, much of it bad. The search for purpose is in response to the endless cycles of doubt, frustration, and dissatisfaction we can find ourselves in, always falling short of that ever-elusive contentment. We just need some hope. And if we can’t fulfill our dreams, we may as well at least read about it!
I shared some quotes/ideas last week from the book Love Does by Bob Goff - lawyer, activist, and adventurer (and friend of Donald Miller - I say this because Miller was instrumental in the writing and publication of the book).
On the one hand, Love Does adds itself to the looooooong list of books intended to inspire us to pursue our dreams. The tagline even points in this direction: “discover a secretly incredible life in an ordinary world.” But where others try to teach us to think right, or adopt the right attitude or energy, or follow 29.5 steps to personal happiness, Love Does reveals that fulfillment is found in the very process of life itself, not just when we reach some sort of goal. It's a typical purpose-driven-type book.
Through whimsical storytelling (although I’ll be honest with a nit-picky critique - the word “whimsical” is way overused), an understated, yet effectively straightforward writing style (one notices Miller’s influence here - the writing isn’t forced), and an overall contextualizing of God and faith into everyday life, Goff highlights that life doesn’t have to be complicated. Love isn’t an abstract idea we strive for. Love, quite simply, does.
And so Goff, through semi-autobiographical writing, focuses on everyday stories of love in action - friendships, connections with strangers, playing with his kids, and general wisdom on life and faith. And while it’s a Christian book, it’s not a religious book. Goff’s life and faith is so deep in his being it’s implicit in everything he says without falling into the trap of cliche christianity. To rephrase Goff’s own description of one of Jesus’ parables, Love Does is deep and theological without being a deep theological treatise. There is depth without jargon.
The downside, perhaps unavoidable in a set of personal stories, is the message could be seen as too easy. With seemingly endless resources at his disposal, Goff does some amazing things in the name of love. Inspirational for sure! But unattainable at the same time. And yes, it’s the spirit of the stories, not how we replicate them that matters. But similar to my feeling about some of Miller’s books, which I’ve benefited greatly from, there is a danger of faith becoming so informal and intuitive that it “just happens.” Well, it doesn’t “just happen” for a lot of people, including Bob Goff. Love happens because we make it happen, oftentimes through the hard work and dedication that loving well requires, especially sacrificial love. And I think Goff would agree. Yet facing my tendency to over-complicate things, easy may be exactly what I need. So I'm torn on this one.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Love Does. Goff’s journey of life and faith is an inspiring testimony to how God invites us to participate in his love for the whole world. Goff gets it. And readers should too. Instead of just thinking about our purpose to be loved and loving people, Love Does reminds us that we are loving people each and everyday. Amen!
Book has been provided courtesy of Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Thomas Nelson.