Tuesday, August 16, 2011

This Is the Love

Camp Barnabas is an incredible place. I cannot even figure how to to compile a good explanation of it into a blog post. Its a place where people...are people. Simply put. No matter what the outside looks like, or what is the heart, or what the attitude may be. The people at camp are treated like children of God - made in His spitting image to be loved by all. Seems like such a basic, minute and foolishly simple ideal, but its something that most of our world completely misses most of the time. The world talks of love as if we have mastered the art of it, as if we know the depths of the often misunderstood emotion, as if sex and feelings are the extent and manifestation of it, as if we are the perfect lovers.

Sometimes, I think people make love far too complicated. And I'm talking about love in general now, not romantic love. There are always stipulations attached to love. There are always conditions. As humans, our love is so very shallow most of the time. We don't know how to love people for who they are with no obligations or demands for something in return. These cases exist, but I honestly think they are rare. Perhaps this is why so many marriages fail. A couple doesn't get what they wanted from each other. Perhaps this is why mothers neglect their daughters and fathers abandon families and boyfriends and girlfriends break up and special friendships end.

I think that love can be whittled down to a single component - stripping it of its complications and issues. Its this: Loving because you're loved. There is an all-surpassing love found at the cross of Jesus Christ. It covers all, is for all, and holds no stipulations. For me, I know I can love people because of that love bestowed on me. It doesn't seem as hard to love people who hate me in return because that perfect love, flowing from the cross, empowers me.

My sins are deliberate blows to a great God, yet He loves me. He says, "I forgive you" and pulls me to Himself. Now, because of that, when people are being hard to love, I can focus on the love I've been shown and the forgiveness I've been granted and impart it on the people around me. Because of that love, its easier to take my eyes off of their wrongs against me and home in on my problems that a great God has looked over and covered.

When such a love has been shared with me - the perfect, greatest love of all - how can I not love others with no standard?

Camp Barnabas teaches me something every year. I go away a new person each time. Sometimes it takes a few weeks for me to realize what the lesson was, though. This year, it was love. Love with no boundaries. Some of the campers at camp are hard to love. Some of them are in wheelchairs and can't lift their arms to hug you, can't smile, can't thank you, can't say they love you....all the things we want in return for loving someone. But there is the challenge - loving anyways. Loving despite their silence or ungratefulness.

When I look at the campers that cannot do for themselves, I see myself in a very strong way. It makes me want to cry, run away, shout for joy, hide, praise the Lord and dance all at the same time. I am so like them - more than I am different. I cannot do for myself, I'm ungrateful, hard to love and I hurt those who care the most. Christ is my helper, He is my lover and often I turn a cold shoulder and don't even offer Him a welcoming smile. Yet, He loves. He has to bath me - my body, my mind and my soul - daily, and I complain the whole time. He makes me eat healthy food and I put up a fight. He makes me to lie down in green pastures and I whine because I don't understand. He asks me to spend a few precious moments with Him every morning and I excuse my way out of it.

Yet, He loves.

I should too.  

Love with no conditions. Love with no reserve. Love with no fear.

This is the Love.


Kirstin said...

This may be my favorite post that I've ever read by you! It gave me a lot of insight on loving others, which I've been thinking about a lot lately! Thanks Ashley! I love you so much! :)

Ashley said...

AW! Thanks Kirstin! I'm glad to know that someone is even still reading it - since I've been horrible about posting on it! Thanks for always being so encouraging! I love you too!

Kaylin Waldrop said...

i love reading about the things God is teaching you. it's really encouraging. thank you for sharing =]

Lexi W. said...

Thank Ashley!!! This one really hit the spot! I've been thinking about love SO much lately, and you took a few words out of my mouth in this post!! I'm so thankful for you and proud that you are willing to share so freely and openly, and I appreciate you!!!! Thank again! (keep posting!!!)

Do you mind if I re-post this on my blog???