The Pillow Principle

A few weeks ago a babysitter put my children to bed while my husband and I enjoyed a picnic dinner and concert at Wolf Trap. A DC summer is incomplete without at least one visit to this amazing venue (check it out at But when I got in bed, The Black Crowes still ringing in my ear, my most beloved pillow appeared to be missing. It is important to know that this pillow has been a part of my life for more than thirty years. Originally a fluffy down pillow, it is now flat as a pancake and easily folded into my suitcase wherever I go. I’ve wondered whether any pillow, save one of the airlines’ sorry little numbers, has ever logged more miles than mine. It has been to Europe twice, Canada, and Mexico. It has cruised to the Bahamas, once in 1985 and again twenty-one years later. And that’s only its international travels. Goodness, I sure hope this post doesn’t prompt the CDC to confiscate it, because although I admit it is a little peculiar, maybe even a teeny bit unsanitary, I love this pillow.

So I drifted off to sleep longing for the malleable coolness of my beloved, contemplating doing a full search, but fearing that little ones would wake from the ruckus. In the back of my mind I think I already knew that little Will had taken it. In the morning he received a full interrogation.
I should have asked about the babysitter, how the night went, if the baby cried, but I couldn’t help myself. When little Will appeared at the bottom of the steps my first words were, “Did you take my pillow?”
He grinned from ear to ear, quite satisfied that the coup had been successful.
“Please don’t take it, again,” I warned.
“Well, I love it too,” he said with his palms up and out in indignation. “Why can’t I have one? Can I get one for my birthday?”
Poor thing he doesn’t understand it can’t be bought. Only thirty years of reckless devotion and fanatical use could reproduce it. It is one of a kind.
But it means the world to me that he loves it. I find it oddly affirming and bonding–this shared love for my pillow, especially since he and I are the only ones that seem to recognize its beauty.
Last week I had the immense privilege to vacation at Maranatha Bible and Missionary Conference on Lake Michigan. ( I saw seven magnificent sunsets in seven days, each painted with different shades of pink and purple and blue. I also heard the president of Cornerstone University, Joe Stowell speak (, and he made a very simple, yet profound statement. He said that we care about what people we love care about. Stowell didn’t say so, but really it’s the Pillow Principle. It is rejuvenating and edifying when people you love are enthusiastic about something dear to your heart, even when that thing is a nasty old pillow. And the converse is also true: the absence of enthusiasm can be deflating, especially when your loved one is never or rarely jazzed about the things that get you jazzed.
So what’s the lesson? Should I expect my husband to all of a sudden love my pillow? No, of course not, we don’t need to feign enthusiasm, but we can be cognizant of how meaningful it is to share genuine enthusiasm. My husband is already looking forward to football season. He greatly appreciates my shared interest, my willingness to park beside him on the couch and cheer on the Philadelphia Eagles. Would I watch the Eagles if it weren’t for Will? Probably not, but I love him and I care about what he cares about.
But the Pillow Principle is actually a lot more than just sports and idiosyncratic fixations, it’s biblical. In John 21, Jesus asks Peter three times, “do you love me?” Peter assures Jesus that he does, and each time Jesus follows Peter’s assurance with a command to feed and take care of His sheep. It is somewhat of a cryptic exchange, especially given the unique history between Jesus and Peter, but Joe Stowell helped me see that what Jesus is really saying to Peter is, “if you love me, you’ll take care of my sheep.” Who are His sheep? People.
So just like Peter, there is an implicit command in loving Jesus. If we truly love Jesus, we will care about what he cares about. And Jesus cares about people! All people. Do you?
Let me just say that when I pose this question to myself, my heart cringes. I know it’s a work of the Spirt, but somebody spur me on!