Summary: The love of God for humanity is as unfathomable as the depth and scale of the universe. But we can, in a small yet intimate way, gain an understanding of and even identify with that love.
I think most of us are well familiar with the developmental disorder known as Autism. It seems that its being diagnosed more and more frequently these days. In fact, the CDC estimates that Autism affects one in every 68 children in the US. It’s so common that most of us either have someone in our families that is Autistic or know someone who is. And as you probably know, a person with Autism typically has a very difficult time forming relationships, trusting people or sometimes even communicating with others. And, even though they are usually surrounded by people who desperately love them, their world tends to be a very isolated and lonely one.
But I recently read an article about another disorder that is often described as the opposite of Autism. This one is pretty rare, it affects only one in every 30,000 people in the US. It was first identified in the 1960s and is named after the doctor that discovered it. It’s called Williams Syndrome. It can often be recognized by some very distinct facial features that usually accompany this disorder such as narrow chin, high cheekbones, prominent ears, and upturned noses. The typical presence of these facial features is why it was originally called Elfin Facies syndrome. But, to me, the most intriguing thing about Williams Syndrome is that it tends to cause those who have it to “freely and deeply love everyone.” In fact the article I read was from an interview with Jennifer Latson who wrote a book based on the true story of a 12 year old boy with Williams Syndrome. The book was titled The Boy Who Loved Too Much- A true story of pathological friendliness.
In her book, she describes how this 12 year old boy, she calls “Eli” would just go up and enthusiastically hug complete strangers and tell them all about himself and asked them many personal questions about their lives as well. She goes on to talk about how difficult this disorder can be on his mother—especially the older he gets. She worries about his going up and hugging the wrong person for fear that they may react rudely or even violently.
And she also worries that some day he may completely trust someone who will take cruel advantage of his trusting and loving nature.
So, while most mothers are striving to teach their children to be more friendly and obedient, Eli’s mother spends a lot of time trying to teach him NOT to be SO FRIENDLY and NOT to indiscriminately and completely TRUST everyone because, sadly, some people may mean to do him serious harm.
After reading that article, I had to stop and ask myself, who REALLY has the “disorder”? Eli or the rest of us? I mean, it’s sad isn’t it? That we live in a world where it is often very dangerous to simply love and trust another human being.
The undeniable, unavoidable reality of living in this world scarred by sin, is that genuine love, in any pure form, whether you have Williams Syndrome or not, is indeed risky business. Because true love ALWAYS carries with it the very real risk of pain. Think about it: Love, the greatest gift God has given to humanity is always shadowed with the ominous possibility-if not the imminent reality, that this same gift could very well become the source of our deepest pain and grief.
If you’ve ever lost someone you dearly loved, you know what I’m talking about; if you’ve ever had sit helplessly by and watch a loved one suffer…. or if you’ve ever completely given your heart to someone and they virtually stomped on it, you know what I mean..
Maybe I’m wrong, but here’s the way I see it; When we truly love someone or even someTHING such as a pet, we essentially give them a part of our hearts—we become emotionally invested in them. And the more we love them—the more invested we are and the more pain we experience if we should lose them, have to see them suffering, or if they somehow prove unworthy of our emotional investment in them..
When we truly love someone, we become vulnerable because of that piece of ourselves we've entrusted to them.
When our daughter, Meagan tuned 16 and first got her driver’s license and was allowed to venture out into this sometimes dark and scary world on her own, it wasn’t the easiest thing to do to let her go. One day my wife Tammy said, she just doesn’t get it, that’s my heart zipping up and down the roads out there!
Truly loving someone is so risky that many people actually choose NOT to allow themselves to love in order to protect themselves from the potential pain that may very well spring from that same love.