Canon Jim Irvinethe penultimate WORD

Series 2002 - February

"Hey, Daddy, Do You Love Jesus?"


The Irvine Tartan  My monthly column in The New Brunswick Anglican



With a young family, driving any distance takes some imagination.  And a modicum of patience.  Very young travelers grow impatient with every kilometer.  I remember that we used to play games to help the time pass more quickly.  And often we’d sing.  As I recall, we sang a lot.

“Hey, Daddy, do you love Jesus?” a chorus of young voices would intone from the back seat.

“Yes, I love Jesus!” I’d reply antiphonally.

“Are you sure you love Jesus?” was their response.

“Yes, I’m sure I love Jesus…” I echoed.

“Tell us why do you love Jesus…”

“This is why I love Jesus: because he first loved me…” and there would be a refrain that we’d all join in enthusiastically.

Then we’d turn the focus on another.  One in a car seat, and another just out of a car seat, two gleeful voices faces would erupt from the back seat while Mummy and Daddy shared in their praise, and joy.  I’d catch their glee in the mirror.  It was contagious!  In time, other voices would be added later.

The simple song became a regular part of our repertoire: a good memory.

The passage of time then, as car wheels sped us through Welsford or Boiestown or St. George, and the passage of time since then, as calendar pages have yielded to successive years, have helped me see the fundamental depth of the faith we shared.  The song reflects challenge, courage, curiosity, constancy, confidence and community.

And it disallowed the numbing defence of intellect often made by adults.

Our children didn’t know the subtle nuances Greek allows when talk turns to love.  They knew only one word for love.  Their questions would begin to inform their understanding that they would carry with them for life.  As they addressed me with their question: “Hey, Daddy, do you love Jesus?”  They wanted to know me better.  And better, they wanted to know how I felt about Jesus.

“Yes, I love Jesus,” I replied.  And they learned something about love, and Jesus and me.  They had the courage to challenge me.  My reply erupted into joyful glee as the antiphonal pattern carried us on to the recognition that Jesus loves us first.

Love, and Jesus, and me and you… it’s a Valentine theme that reaches far beyond the calendar page of February.  The song recognizes and affirms both our need to love as well as our need to be loved.  The reciprocal nature of intimacy is a dimension of human relationship that Jesus exploited when he taught his disciples.

Aisles of card shops display banks of greets that speak of love.  I have stood there, studying the variety of cards.  Some are sweet and delicate, while others are humorous and sometimes rude.  Some are designed for youthful loves while others reflect a more mellow affection.  A common thread I’ve noticed is a note of timidity.  I think timidity has ever been part of the vulnerability of the ubiquitous Valentine. 

In elementary school we’d give a card to everyone in the class.  They still make the books of punch-out cards and envelopes that are nearly impossible to construct.  The cartooning is still the same.  And the elemental poetry is as it was decades ago.  And we were indiscriminate in giving them to others.  Oh, a special card might be selected for a special person, but the imagination and fantasy of youth might go unnoticed by that cute girl who sat in the second seat in the fourth row… I have long forgotten her name!

Later, cards are selected deliberately with someone in mind.  More vulnerable now, perhaps a humorous card would ease the sting in the event that cards are not exchanged.  Embarrassed, we can always laugh it off.  If we have to, we could retreat from love to like and survive the moment!

Expressions of love, spoken and heard are critical for our humanity.

Our daughters helped us see that in vocalizing their inquiry in sweet song.  The melody wasn’t much; the words, the question -- that’s what deepened understanding and relationship.  It’s with a sense of timidity that we approach one another, afraid of rejection.  We reluctantly approach Jesus much the same.

Oh, I know.  We are all quick to say that we love Jesus.  Nobody is going to say that they do not love Jesus.  Look, we even rationalize our feeling toward Jesus by appealing to the Greek subtleties and claim agape as our basis of love.  I have followed that cautious pattern for too long.  I have another question.

“Are you in love with Jesus?”

That’s what the youthful voices were really asking as we sped along the highway.  Is Jesus the apple of my eye?  That’s what they wanted to know.  And why.  Has Jesus caught my attention like no other, not even that cute girl who sat in the second seat in the fourth row… whose name I have long forgotten?  Do I love Jesus in a manner different from how I love fresh home made bread and how I love to watch ER and how I love the sound of a loon on the Kennebecasis River at sunset.  Is Jesus just another recipient of a punch-out Valentine or does he have my heart?

My kids wanted to know.

Copyright © 2002 James T. Irvine

Series 2002