I woke at 1:05am, nearly a half hour before my alarm was set to rouse me. I’d been asleep for only two hours. Trying not to wake my hostess, I made a pour-over in the dark. I layered on (nearly) all the clothes in my suitcase, and topped that off with a borrowed hoodie before hailing a cab.
“Rockefeller,” I said, beaming.
“Ahh, trying to be on the TODAY Show! In this weather?” he asked, his wipers screeching across the windshield.
“Well, sort of? Coldplay is on the show in the morning. All the passes for the Plaza are already gone, so my only hope is to sleep on the sidewalk and try to get a spot in the back.”
The previous day, when I mentioned on Facebook that I was considering sleeping on the sidewalk, I expected people to reply with,”You’re crazy!” But to my surprise, every one of my friends encouraged me to do it. In fact, one friend replied, “I’ll be really disappointed if you don’t.” Even my mom “liked” the post … about me sleeping on a New York City sidewalk in the rain.
My friends know I love Coldplay’s music. Something in them wanted me — and even expected me — to prove it, even if that meant suffering to see them.
I believe love can be measured by your willingness to inconvenience yourself. It may not be the truest measure or the only measure, but it’s certainly an obvious one.
I should acknowledge that there can be all kinds of unhealthy, codependent, idolatrous, or abusive scenarios that unfold from this notion, so it shouldn’t go unchecked. But in general, if you refuse to suffer for something, you probably don’t love it. If your schedule doesn’t somehow shift to accommodate that thing, it likely isn’t love. You might like it or enjoy it, but if your life isn’t somehow bent toward it, it’s unfair to call it love.
We’re just talking about music here, I know — not a person or a cause — but I don’t think that diminishes the point. Whatever brings you pleasure creates a willingness to suffer for that pleasure. This weekend I also saw people standing in line down the block, enduring a 4.5 hour wait in the cold, for a milkshake. Pleasure and love and passion move us to action.
I was explaining all this to my cab driver with a great deal of enthusiasm when a strange sentence came out of my mouth. “My friend said something really profound once: ‘the greatest love you can have for someone is to lay down your life for them.’” (In paraphrasing John 15:13, I’m not sure why I decided to refer to Jesus as “my friend” but it just happened.)
“I like that,” my driver said.
“Yeah, and then He did it. He actually did what He said.” The GOSPEL. He proved His love.
And He continues to. Even beyond His death and resurrection, evidence of His love saturates my days:
– My friend Lindsey woke early to drive me to the airport for my trip to NYC.
– My friend Caroline gave up a room in her home to let me stay there.
– My friend Jonathan stayed up all night to come stand in line with me at Coldplay so I didn’t have to wait alone.
All these little signs of their love are also signs of The Father’s love. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” (James 1:17)
I am drenched in God’s love for me. The question that logically follows is: Do I love Him? Where do I inconvenience myself for Him? Where do I bend my schedule to fit Him and His priorities into it? Where do I sacrifice or suffer? What am I willing to give up for the sake of the Gospel?
It’s an important question for me to ask, but the answer will likely be difficult to determine. Because even in the measuring, the beauty of the truth, surely, is this: When you love something, the bending and yielding often doesn’t feel like sacrifice. It feels a lot like joy.
“… for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross ….” – Hebrews 12:2
He’s where the joy is. All of it. “In Your presence there is fullness of joy….” (Psalm 16:11). Coldplay, without even trying, points me to it and to Him. They are near the top of the list of “things that stir my affections for God.” And I love how the Father used this experience of me chasing joy in Christ to make me love Christ all the more. How beautiful.
In case you’re wondering, it’s worth missing sleep for.
Postlude: If you’re curious what happened after the cab driver dropped me off …
I lined up behind a dozen others who were already there, our backs to the steel barricade. I unfolded my New York Times and laid it out to be my sleeping mat. Within seconds, the rain soaked through it, black ink smearing across the pages. I shivered and drank my coffee.
Around 3am, I asked a stranger for directions to a restroom, and he pointed me to a 24-hour deli two blocks away. On my way back, I stopped to thank him and he struck up a conversation with me. His name was Mark and he worked with Coldplay. He’d been with them nearly 10 years. We talked for another hour as he introduced me to some new friends and we talked about music and I got to check out their guitars. OVERJOYED.
Then I went back to my spot in line as the rain intensified and the temperature dropped. An hour later, when the 1,000+ people with fan passes piled into the plaza, I managed to find a spot at the back, but a sea of umbrellas filled my view.
Then, right before they took the stage, my phone rang. It was Mark. “Look to your right,” he said. Past the people and the barricades, he motioned for me. He pulled me from the back of the crowd, moved the barricades, pushed past the security, then positioned me right on the edge of the stage. WHAT?
It may sound like a small thing to you, especially if you don’t love Coldplay, but it kept giving me eyes for something far beyond Coldplay. I stood there thinking about the Gospel: He chases down those of low position, pulls them from the midst of their nothingness, and escorts them to the King’s table.
“For you I’d bleed myself dry … ” Chris Martin sang.
And he sang of love, but he sang of Christ, who did, literally. There we were, face to face, covered in rain and tears of joy. Only The Lord.