“To Love Somebody” is a song written by Barry and Robin Gibb. Barry was the lead singer for a group known as the Bee Gees and the song was released by the Bee Gees from their international debut album, Bee Gees 1st, in 1967. The song was not an immediate smash hit although it did rise to #17 on the Charts in America and #41 in the UK. However, it has found a classic status in the music industry. In a 2017 interview with Piers Morgan’s Life Stories, Barry was asked, “of all the songs that you’ve ever written, which song would you choose?” Barry said that “To Love Somebody” was the song that he’d choose as it has “a clear, emotional message”. Perhaps the reason it has had such staying power in the hearts and minds of so many is the haunting refrain that expresses the singer’s inner heart when he sings to the object of his love:
You don’t know what it’s like
Baby, you don’t know what it’s like
To love somebody
To love somebody
The way I love you
I’m a grandfather nine times over, with the tenth one due to be born via Sarah and Ethan September 25th. This will make 10 grandchildren all 6 years and below in age. I am “Apa” to my grands and Michal is “Ama”. I was not prepared for how smitten I would be by my grands. I’m not sure if it is because I know this is my last “go around” with babies that could be considered in any way “mine”, or if it is simply a function of age, but I’m “ga ga” for my grands. And they are coming back to us. A year ago, we had grands in Virginia, Louisville, KY, and Minot ND. Elise was in South Africa and any future grands through her figured to be distant at least in terms of touching them. The only one we had living near us was Ethan and Sarah’s Ellorie. Perhaps you have noticed what a semi-permanent attachment she has been to me this past year at church. Well, in the last year Everette and Grace have moved back to Michigan with Marcus and Titus. Now, Emilee is back in Michigan, living with us with her four; Draycen, Griffin, Evellyn, and Rhordyn. The only two grands not here are Evan and Jena’s two boys, Gunner and Forrest. We’re in grandparent heaven! You should see our home on Sunday as we all gather for the Sunday meal after church… a genuine “Blue Bloods” kind of thing (if you are familiar with that show). What a delightful din! What a happy circumstance!
This circumstance allows us to do things as a family. Last Thursday, we went out to dinner together. Matt, Emilee’s husband, was here from Minot. He is finishing his Air Force duty before retiring in early November and then joining his family here in Michigan. Before he had to fly back to Minot, we decided to go to Mongolian BBQ. I wasn’t really hungry so I took that opportunity, as did Michal, to take care of the two littlest ones, Rhordyn and Ellorie, so the others could eat without distraction. To keep Ellorie occupied, I took her in my arms and walked her around the restaurant, which was not too crowded. As I did, I kind of “danced” her in my arms (the only dancing I do) and nuzzled my nose into her cheek and sang to her, “You don’t know what it’s like, Ellie, you don’t know what it’s like…to love somebody…to love somebody…the way I love you.” I could have been singing that (and have) to any of my grands. It so accurately reflects the fact that at their tender ages, they have no idea how much I love them. They don’t know what it’s like to be a grandfather so smitten with his grands as to walk them around a public restaurant and sing in their ear, “You don’t know what it’s like.”
But you know what, that song exactly reflects a deeper and more spiritual truth. We don’t know what it’s like to have God love us the way he does. In their immature and in some cases infantile way, my grands know that I love them. But they cannot possibly know the depth of that love, the full-hearted emotion of that love, or the dedicated devotion of that love. They do not yet know what it’s like to love somebody the way I love them. But neither can I know, in my spiritually infantile way, the depths of God’s love for me. Without trying to be trite or disrespectful of God, he could literally take me in his arms and sing to me, “You don’t know what it’s like, to love somebody, the way I love you.”
God’s love for us is so steadfast, so perfect, so infinite that we simply do not know what it is like to love that way. When I pray, I often tell God that I love him. When I do, I almost invariably say something like, “Lord, I’m ashamed, in a way, to even say that I love you, because I know my love is so anemic, self-saturated, and stunted. The way I live and the way I serve you so often does not look like love.” But God’s love toward me is pure, powerful, and everlasting. I’m not sure that I will ever be able to fully comprehend the love of God toward me, even in eternity. I’m not sure I will ever know what it’s like to love God the way he loves me.
Even with that being true, I do love God, however imperfectly or immaturely. And he knows that. He knows our frame, that we are but dust, and sinful dust at that. I do think God is pleased with my affirmations of love for him. But I’ll never love God, the way he loves me. I just don’t know what it’s like. But for all eternity, I hope my love for him will only grow.