I’m in the middle of my shift at work. Per usual, I’m sweaty and frazzled as I try to get all of my residents ready for bed. Call lights are going off; I need help, no one is around. Instead of joyfully and positively interacting with my residents, I find myself getting impatient and short even with the sweetest people. Just wait until I have challenging residents where my best efforts are never adequate for them; I struggle to just be cordial and respectful. In scenarios like these, it’s so hard for me to love others.
There are a plethora of verses about it, it’s at the root of Christianity, and yet it is one of the hardest concepts for me to live by. To be honest, I do a poor job at loving my family and friends– people who should be easy to love. If I can’t love the people closest to me fully, how can I ever genuinely love my neighbors, coworkers, residents, complete strangers, enemies?
What I have started to realize, however, is that love that is within me stems from God, not myself. I have felt God’s love working through me the most at Royal Family Kids Camp this year. My two campers were broken. I don’t know their stories, but at age seven, both have them have endured more trauma and hardship than I will ever encounter. They have been emotionally, physically, or sexually abused, and now are stuck in the cycle of foster care. For a week at camp, though, it was my job to forget about their pasts and just love them for who they are. The type of love that I felt was unlike anything that I have experienced before. It was more than sisterly or motherly love. It was God’s love in me that was shining on these girls. If it were just my love working, the craziness of camp, the rain, or little behavioral issues would have inhibited me from genuinely loving my campers. Instead, camp (even though chaotic at times) was a joyous place, and I was able to create beautiful relationships with my campers. Through God’s love, I was able to give my whole self to these girls. Whatever they needed–a friend, a role model, a hug, a smile– I gave to them. So yes, even though I was tired and cold, you bet I was tubing in the lake, dancing with the girls in the cabin during “quiet time” , or walking hand-in-hand with my campers as we explored nature. My experience with Royal Family has allowed me to grow in my ability to be compassionate towards others because I learned that my love alone doesn’t cut it. I need God’s love to work through me.
Now, if I’m in a situation where I cannot love a person on my own, I send a quick prayer saying, “Lord, I’m struggling to love this person. Your love is greater than mine. Help me to love them.” It’s amazing what a simple prayer can do. This worked even this morning as my mom and I went to the farmer’s market. I was starting to become a grouch around her, but I asked for God to help me be more loving, and it saved the trip from turning sour.
This tactic doesn’t work for me all the time because I’m human and I screw up daily. Loving unconditionally is something that I want to work towards because by loving others, I am showing love to God– the one who sent Jesus to die for all of my sins. I don’t want to be a Christian who can only talk the talk. My words and actions need to embody the loving spirit of Christianity. Hopefully, God will give the the strength to allow me to grow in my capacity to love, even in situations where it’s hard to.
Lots of love,