The world can make you think that love can be picked up at a garage sale or enveloped in a Hallmark card. But the kind of love that God created and demonstrated is a costly one because it involves sacrifice and presence. It’s a love that operates more like a sign language than being spoken outright. What I learned… is that it’s more about presence than undertaking a project. It’s a brand of love that doesn’t just think about good things, or agree with them, or talk about them. What I learned… reinforced the simple truth that continues to weave itself into the tapestry of every great story: Love does.
-Bob Goff, Love Does
There’s something about a story that gets to us in the way other things can’t. That’s partially why I believe we were created to be part of an incredible story- because we just gravitate towards stories. When it comes to learning something, trying to memorize a series of facts and details becomes quickly mind numbing. Learning it through the form of a story, though, feels only too natural. Life’s best teachers are experiences, and experiences are revived through story. Maybe that’s why some of the most important things you’ll ever learn about in life- Love, grace, and hope, can only be fully understood by experiencing them. Taking yourself through the story.
I find myself attracted to people who have stories to tell. Lots of them. Sometimes people’s stories are intense, and I can’t even begin to imagine what it would’ve been like for me to go through their experiences. Other times, though, the stories don’t have to be that intense- there’s still something to learn from. I’d hope to one day become an awesome grandfather-Gandalfy sort, who doesn’t mind spending an entire day telling stories from life, sometimes without realizing that he’s told the same story more than once.
Bob Goff is probably that sort of guy. He’s got wisdom through experience, but still tells his stories with the energy and enthusiasm of a kid at heart. I first heard about him as an individual before he even wrote a book. He was featured all throughout Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, a book I love a whole lot. That portrayal of him, as well as the descriptions by countless other writers and thinkers all portrayed him as wise, loving, and full of good stories. I hoped that sort of hype would result in a book, and soon enough, it did.
One of my friends who got a head start on the book mentioned that she started tearing up at the foreword. That seemed a bit much, but I’d followed Bob Goff on Twitter, and I remembered that this guy can say some pretty encouraging yet powerful stuff in very few words. What could you do if you gave him a whole book?
The book actually allows him to unpack some of the stories that go behind the principles he lives by, that he uses to continue to craft an excellent story out of his life. He uses his stories as simple examples to show how a life led by Love is one that is active and contagious- taking days away from having a normal existence, to having the potential to be adventurous, messy, whimsical, and completely meaningful.
Each story he tells is a good one, and you get the sense that you could just be in a living room with a few close friends listening to him recall all these moments from a cozy recliner. I wouldn’t want to give away too much, but I definitely found a few favourite stories in the pages of Love Does. There was the time when in teaching his kids about peace, supported their idea to mail out dinner invitations to political leaders all over the world… a project that resulted in personal meetings with presidents and prime ministers in the most random countries. He talks about how he got started freeing enslaved children in Uganda, simply by going there and offering the most simple solutions.
My personal favourite- and the last one I’ll describe, so I don’t give too much of the book away, involves him sneaking a dying friend out of the hospital to rejoin his family for part of a vacation during the later stages of his battle with cancer.
Goff is a guy who fits my favourite sort of mold- he stays busy and doesn’t do just one thing. His experiences in Uganda have led him to found Restore International a non-profit that continues to fight against injustice towards children both there and in India. He works as a lawyer, and also as a consul for Uganda to the U.S. Every now and then he also serves as a law professor. Sharing both the value of living out good stories, and the habit of keeping life varied and interesting, I got a lot out of reading from his book.
It was both a light and fun read, his stories were interesting and quirky. At the same time, it was also pretty profound. He takes his faith seriously. Although he’s an advocate of whims and fun, he also reminds us that we need to be authentic- and that includes vulnerability. He encourages us to take up a fight against the proper opponents, and to live out grace all while constantly listening to God.
Perhaps the biggest thing that can be taken away from this read could be summed up by a quote from Love Does:
There is only one invitation it would kill me to refuse, yet I’m tempted to turn it down all the time. I get the invitation every morning when I wake up to actually live a life of complete engagement, a life of whimsy, a life where love does. It doesn’t come in an envelope. It’s ushered in by a sunrise, the sound of a bird, or the smell of coffee drifting lazily from the kitchen. It’s the invitation to actually live, to fully participate in this amazing life for one more day. Nobody turns down an invitation to the White House, but I’ve seen plenty of people turn down an invitation to live.
Turning down this invitation comes in lots of flavors. It looks like numbing yourself or distracting yourself or seeing something really beautiful as just normal. It can also look like refusing to forgive or not being grateful or getting wrapped around the axle with fear or envy. I think every day God sends us an invitation to live and sometimes we forget to show up or get head-faked into thinking we haven’t really been invited. But you see, we have been invited- every day, all over again.