I was researching the latest Bible studies on Christianbook.com to see what I should read next when I came across the title, “Everybody, Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People” by Bob Goff. The synopsis for the DVD study had me at “creepy people”:
“What would happen if we stopped worrying about a challenging world filled with difficult people and instead decided to love everybody? In this five-session Everybody, Always Video Study, bestselling author Bob Goff shares simple and practical steps to love everybody, always, the way Jesus did – including the ‘creepy people’ who are difficult to love.”
I laughed at the title and looked it up online at my local library. Bonus: My highlights merge with my Goodreads account so I can go back to the gems.
I don’t usually read reviews before reading, but I happened upon those as I updated my reading shelf. I saw where some shut “Everybody, Always” based on one or two reviewers. Reviewers labeled Goff a “white, privileged, male” and something about him having a “savior complex.” (The last part made me smile as I thought about all the times I turned to “psychology, always” to explain fictional works in research papers at Kent State.)
This book is 230 pages on my Kindle and each chapter can “stand alone” in content as you move through the book. The chapters were short and quick to read for those who read in spurts on breaks or in a waiting room like me. Each story takes you back to explaining something about our walk as we “become love.” Goff is a lawyer by trade. He states his case and then produces evidence for what he posits from there. I like the ideas he leaves with me: to build a kingdom, not a remote castle; and to build a bridge, not moat (with crocodiles). He reminds us what Jesus tells us to do: “to love Him and then find people who are hungry or thirsty or who feel like strangers or are sick and don’t have clothes or are in prison or creep us out or are our enemies and go love them just like they were [Jesus]” (145).
Some reviewers thought Goff was boasting about his love for people and the many things he has done to help others. He does say we are to give in private as Jesus says in Matthew 6:3: “…when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” As a writer myself, I did wonder about the position Goff would place himself in if he didn’t show the ways he has helped people. I don’t know what other way he could express that he’s not just a man of words, but follows through in his actions toward others. He has to show us, not tell us, after all. I can see where some might see that is bragging. I see a man who knows he’s in the “rough draft” portion of his story (his words. Great image.) He’s still learning, and he said as the more he love others, the more his life is changed.
“If you want to become love, stop just agreeing with Jesus. Go call someone right now. Lift them up in ways they can’t life themselves. Send them a text message and say you’re sorry. I know they don’t deserve it. You didn’t either. Don’t put a toe in the water with your love; grab your knees and do a cannonball” (218)
I find Goff fascinating because he is not like me, which is part of the reason I was intrigued by his stories. I am afraid of people I don’t know, which is just about everyone in Dayton. (OK, probably not everyone.) I am a Christian like Goff, so I’m a choir audience there, but if I were to do some of the things he has done I might end up dead. Scratch that — I would be dead.
I’ll hopefully give enough information to explain that without spoiling the stories. Goff talks about parking his yellow truck 20-minutes from work when he started out as a lawyer in San Diego. On a wintry day, he came back to his truck to find a man who was homeless sitting in the driver’s seat. Instead of stopping and calling police, Goff instead described how they’d do a “changing of the guard” (33) each day where the man would get out and Goff would get back in and drive home. That was until one day Goff came out to find his truck trashed inside and his visitor gone.
I am a woman who has been taught some self-defense techniques as well as what to do if I encounter someone in or around my car when I leave a store or business. I can’t see myself walking to my car, seeing a stranger inside, and continuing toward my car. Nope. I’d call the police. I can admire Goff for seeing instead someone who is harmless and needed a place to feel secure and get out of the weather. He did remind me that I can put blinders on and not take in the people around me out of fear when I am actually safe to proceed. Not everyone is out to harm me. Maybe I’ve had opportunities to help others and missed them because I was looking down at my retreating feet.
Another example where I’d end up dead: skydiving. Goff talks about learning to skydive so he could share in the experience with his son, Adam. He was so excited to jump after his son the first time out that he left his shoes behind in the aircraft. Goff gives an explanation of some of the “dos and don’ts” of sky-diving. He said if your first chute opens and there’s “one string caught over the top of the parachute, they tell you to cut away the entire parachute, start free-falling again, and then pull the emergency chute” (55). What!?
Goff used the example of the string caught over the top of the parachute to cutting away “all the things hanging us up” (55)
“[Jesus] talked about cutting away things that entangle us and about pruning more than parachutes, but the concept is the same. When we get the wrong things over the top of our lives, we might look good for a short time, but we won’t land our lives well” (55).
I had to really think about what wrong things were like string catching over the top of my parachute. I thought of my career years ago. I worked for 10 years in public affairs at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton. I loved that job. I still like to talk about my favorite memories, but inevitably I will beat myself up for not taking better care of myself. I believed it was a job God hand-picked for me — it really was — so I couldn’t understand when my health declined. I could no longer keep up with my “full steam ahead” approach to work. I probably was a classic workaholic, but I thought that was okay. I had ignored the stress and any warning signs. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder and then came debilitating pain. Doctors, medication, physical therapy were all thrown at my illnesses with no changes. I think some of my symptoms worsened actually. I had migraine attacks several times a week. I would no sooner recuperate from one migraine and then have another attack. Eventually I had to medically retire. I saw then how much of my value as a person I placed in the job I had. I put my faith in what I saw as God-given abilities. I thought my job was proof He approved of my job, so imagine what I learned when the door was shut on career. When I no longer had the job I had to cut away the whole parachute and deploy the second chute. Completely frightening.
Sometimes my new normal looks bleak to me. I tell my friend Marla I feel like I’m not doing anything worthwhile. She says not to look back and to remember: “You’re working for Jesus.”
The best part about the parachute training from Goff: if neither chute works, the sky-diving instructor said you have 45 seconds before you hit the ground, and it’s not the first landing that kills you but the bounce after hitting the ground. Lawyer that he is, Goff reasoned if both chutes didn’t open, then he was “going to grab the grass and avoid the bounce” when he hit the ground. I laughed as I read that. I’m still asking, “Would you live if you grab the grass?” While I don’t have an answer, I can call Goff and ask him. He gives his cell number at the end of the book. He did say that he takes calls from people in prison where the fee is $9.95 and he always answers. Maybe I’ll text him if I’m not too chicken.
Goff is an engaging storyteller. I learned quite a bit about myself while reading his book. I do hope those put off by negative reviewers will consider giving this book another chance. I will have to go back now and read “Love Does.” Hope you enjoyed my review!