A Tip on Learning How to Love – Dive Into Their World

Shauna Niequist

My husband Aaron and I aren’t really Halloween people—we’re not into zombies and tombstone decorations. We’re not pumpkin enthusiasts. I’m not a fall person at all—not a ‘can’t-wait-to-break-out-my-sweater-and-boots’ person, not a pumpkin spice latte lover. We don’t boycott Halloween. We don’t turn off our porch lights and hide inside, but we definitely don’t put cobwebs in our trees or fake spiders on our porch or skeletons holding machetes in our bushes.

At least, we didn’t until this year.

Our son Henry is six, and he’s all imagination. For most of his life, he’s been wearing costumes everywhere he goes—capes, masks, gloves, imaginary jet boots, power rings. We almost don’t notice it anymore. He loves Halloween, and this year he asked a few times if we could have decorations. We told him we’re not really decoration people. We hoped he’d forget about it.

And then the day before Halloween, he started carrying things out on to the front porch—rubber snakes, pirate hats, fake swords.

“What are you doing, buddy?” I asked.

“I’m making it spooky,” he said, face lit up with delight.

All afternoon, he dragged things from his bedroom and the basement out into the front yard. He tied a fake lizard to the doorknob by its tail, he wound rubber snakes through the bushes, he hung capes in the trees.

At a certain point I called my husband. I said, “I give up. I think we need to go to the store and get this kid some spooky decorations. He’s in his glory out there.”

Aaron agreed, and we woke Henry up early on the morning of Halloween, and we spent the morning setting up lights shaped like skulls, cobwebs with huge fake spiders, poison signs and pumpkins.

Henry was beside himself. When his friends came over to trick-or-treat, he proudly walked them around all the decorations, explaining each thing.
At the end of the day, after the chaos and candy-eating was over, Aaron and I decided that we’re Halloween people. We’re Halloween people because Henry’s a Halloween person, and more than anything, we’re Henry people.

Loving Henry is loving spooky, scary stuff. Loving Henry is getting up on Halloween morning to spread fake cobwebs and lining the driveways with lights shaped like skulls.

Sometimes love asks you to change. This is a tiny example, certainly, but life is full of opportunities to love someone well by loving their thing, not just your thing, by stretching across your preferences and opinions and comforts.

It’s so easy to love people who like all the same things you do—who never listen to music that makes you cringe, or who believe all the same things you believe. But love sometimes asks you to lay down your preferences, and dive into someone else’s world for a little while.

Sometimes that world is full of spiders and spooky lights. Sometimes it’s the ballet or country music or Russian novels. Sometimes it’s staying quiet when you want to talk, sometimes it’s giving space when you want to rush in. Love asks what’s best for the person you love, not what’s best or most convenient to you.

When has someone loved you well by doing something outside their own comfort zone? When have you done that for someone else?

Shauna Niequist

Shauna Niequist

This is a post by Shauna Niequist, one of the Storyline Contributors. Pick up a copy of her latest book, Bread & Wine on her website and make sure to follow along on Twitter (@sniequist) for regular updates. To read more of her posts on the Storyline Blog, click here.