justin bieberThe girls chant “Justin Bieber, Justin Bieber, Justin Bieber” while the boys writhe and moan and cover their ears, loving to hate the current teen idol. My son memorizes songs by Taio Cruz , while my daughter Googles and prints photos of Taylor Swift and replays that one song about Romeo and Juliet every day, singing the chorus at the top of her lungs. The neighbor girls giggle as they proclaim their intention to marry so-and-so.

I smile to myself as I listen to them, but I can’t let it be. I sprinkle little comments into their conversations now and then.

taylor swift“Just because you like a person’s music doesn’t mean they would make a good spouse.”

“Talent isn’t the same as good character.”

“Knowing information isn’t the same as knowing a person.”

That last one echoes in my head for days after I speak the words.

Have I not spent decades memorizing verses, studying definitions, and diagramming sentences about my God? I’ve soaked in as much information as I could find. I’ve tried to learn, understand, and apply that understanding. Yet have I not realized that in spite of all the knowledge, I do not know the Person?

I’ve got it all wrong, I think. When I meet people, I do not memorize facts about them, study theory about them, and try to apply that information in my life. How sterile and scientific! No, I spend time with them, listen, laugh, confide. I’ve done very little of that with God.

It’s no wonder I struggle to love God. I know about God the same way I know about Shakespeare or the president. But I don’t actually know Him. Until I know God, I cannot love God. Not really. I can admire, respect, fear, and obey, but I cannot love. Without love, I cannot trust.

On a walk yesterday, I looked for my word for this new year. I turned many words over in my hands like sea shells, considering and discarding. Except love. I kept coming back to love – love of God, love for people — all people, not just the ones who make me feel good and/or agree with me. I need to grow in this.

Then this song began playing on my iPod, Poison and Wine by The Civil Wars. It nails how I feel about God right now. (For those of you who dislike alcohol, replace “wine” with your favorite beverage. It will be less poetic — “diet Coke” or “sweet tea” just doesn’t fit as well — but you’ll get the idea.) And it solidified my word for the year — love.

You only know what I want you to
I know everything you don’t want me to

Oh your mouth is poison, your mouth is wine
Oh you think your dreams are the same as mine

Oh I don’t love you but I always will
Oh I don’t love you but I always will
Oh I don’t love you but I always will
I always will

I wish you’d hold me when I turn my back
The less I give the more I get back

Oh your hands can heal, your hands can bruise
I don’t have a choice but I still choose you

Oh I don’t love you but I always will
Oh I don’t love you but I always will
Oh I don’t love you but I always will
I always will