Return on Investment

I've been watching the stock market over the last couple of months, and it's been kind of dizzying, to say the least--a real roller coaster ride.

As much as I hate to admit it, I have found that I am comforted when I see Dow Jones average rise, and I know that all of the investments that we're making for college funds, retirement and the like are gaining rather than losing.  

Call me kooky... but I like to actually get a return on my financial investments.  If that makes me sound mercenary and capitalistic... I can live with that.    

This isn't a greed thing for me---it's about preparing for the future, leaving a legacy, and being able to live generously.  

I'm not alone in this.  That's how most of us think--it's only natural to want to grow our portfolios, add to our savings, celebrate the gains and figure out how to minimize our losses.  

Here's the problem, though.  That same mentality creeps its way into so many other parts of our lives if we are not careful, and then we find ourselves seeing things through a transactional lens.  

For example, we begin to expect some kind of return when it comes to our work.  We'll put in time and effort, and then anticipate a reward like a promotion, recognition, etc., and if we don't get it, we feel slighted. 

We'll work hard to achieve something or to win a spot on a roster, be accepted by a group, win the confidence of peers, and then we are crushed when our aspirations are not fulfilled.  

Sadly, many of us also tend to use that transactional lens when it comes to the ways we choose to show love.  

We'll do something for a friend, a gesture, a favor or even give a gift, and we may find ourselves secretly thinking that the friend should reciprocate in some way or offer some kind of slavish response of gratitude. 

And let's just say that maybe we are the kind of person who doesn't think like that, but we assume other people do... then every gift, gesture or favor can begin to feel like an obligation and we can feel resentful or guilty if we don't do something in return. 

I read this amazing quote by Bob Goff the other day that has stuck with me all week.  He wrote: 
Keeping track of your investment is a fine way to gauge progress in the business world, I  suppose, but it's a lousy way to measure a relationship because it turns people into projects. 
In other words, when we love transactionally, we deny the image of God in both ourselves and those we say we love.   We quickly find ourselves seeing people as objects and not subjects.  

Goff goes on to say this:   
Love was never meant to be transactional.  It doesn't give to get.  It doesn't create spreadsheets to analyze how well it's working.  It doesn't track how much love you put in and measure it against how much love you got back.  
As I was thinking about all of this today, the line at the end of the Beatles song "The End" kept running through my mind:  
"And in the end, the love you get is equal to the love you give." 
What a great song. 

You might think at first blush that line plays right into the whole transactional lens thing I've been talking about.  I suppose you could make that argument, but I have a different take.  

If the love you give is completely attached to expectations of a return on investment... then you will probably receive that kind of love in return.  Only it's not love, really.  

You see, true love can only be freely given---with no strings attached.  

Throughout the New Testament, the authors who wrote all of the Gospels and letters contained within it used a particular word to describe that kind of no-strings love.  The word was agape.  

This kind of love keeps no record of wrongs... doesn't keep score.  This kind of love is sacrificial... putting the needs of others before self.  This kind of love is not marked by pride or foolish, petty jealousies.  

This kind of love is what led Jesus to take on the worst the world had to offer in order to show each and every one of us just how much God loves us and wants us to live abundant lives---free from shame and the dread of darkness and death.  

There's no expectation of ROI when it comes to that kind of love.  It simply is.  

May you experience that kind of love more fully and completely in your own life, and may you begin to live and love without any expectations.  

And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  


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