Monday, October 23, 2006

How Powerful is Love?

Just over a week ago I went out to Indiana and did a men's retreat on spiritual warfare. The men met in a YMCA camp just north of Lafayette. One warning the men gave me ahead of time: "the college kids probably won't be there. They think this is something for us old guys." I could understand that; when I was in college I am not sure I would go sleep in modified chicken coops for two nights and spend my weekend listening to lectures.

But that's not what happened.

Some college kids and teens came -- not many, but some. One of the first through the door was Rob. Rob was one of our Rochester kids. He grew up here in a Christian family. Sadly, in his last few years of high school, his family went through a terrible time. His father, formally a faithful leader, active in the church, went well off the rails. He got involved in gambling and that led to one vice after another. A divorce followed a long period of pain... but it didn't end the pain. Rob's mother stayed faithful to Jesus and continued to be marked by love and strength... but his father told him that the pleasures of the world were there for him. He had only, to coin a phrase, "take it and eat."

When Rob didn't go to one of the Christian colleges many wondered if he could stay faithful. He was an exceptionally bright young man and had a great future ahead of him if he could stay focused on his studies (he is in materials engineering, therefore Purdue is a good place for him), but his financial and professional future weren't our first concern. Would Rob stay faithful? I know the odds... and they aren't good.

But Rob walked through the door, smiling, personable, equipped with his Bible and marked by the love and faithfulness of his mother. He led songs, read Scripture, and was a natural leader among the men -- most of them two or three times his age. He was optimistic and had the heart of a servant (and the brain of an Einstein). On Sunday morning I watched with pride as he and his friends sat right up front. They arrived early, spent time greeting each other and people from other age groups, participated in the worship and were unfailingly polite.

I couldn't wait to get back home to Rochester and tell his mother: "Your love worked. He is marked with faithfulness and love because you never quit, you never gave up." His mother is a hero to me. I still shake my head about this nine days later. Here is a young man who is offered the world, given permission to do any forbidden thing, but who chooses righteousness because that is what he saw modeled by his mother.

It made me take a good look at myself in the mirror. I had to consider my ways and see if they matched Rob's mother's. I determined that I would remember to out-love everyone I met, to be the most loving person in any room I find myself in, and to remember that what I say and do in public and private will have long term effects in the lives of my daughter, son, and wife.

Later this week I will go shooting with some friends. I have several powerful weapons in the gun safe. Yet, even as I settle down behind this or that rifle I will remember -- this is nothing. This is not powerful. Rob's mother's love? THAT is powerful. And the cool thing? It is available to all of us who decide to love -- no matter what.

It matters.


At 10/23/2006 12:24:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. I am raising young children, without much help from my husband in the spiritual arena. And I wonder--constantly--how will this affect my children's future in the church? I read too often that children are more influenced by their father's absence at church than by their mother's presence, and that worries me a great deal!

At 10/23/2006 03:05:00 PM , Blogger That Girl said...

I love the idea of "out-loving" others. I've always called it "out-nicing". It's wonderful in theory just so difficult to put into practice!

At 10/23/2006 03:07:00 PM , Blogger Dee O'Neil Andrews said...

For you Patrick and you, anonymous, with the young children . . . I would encourage you, anonymous, to not worry but to pray and persevere through all and your children will be fine. Try to always be as positive as you can in your work with your children and to be a constant, abiding presence for them.

I had the same troubles, even married to a self-proclaimed Christian who was not only no help to me or the children, but a great hindrance and terrible influence on them and others. I am exceedingly happy and deeply pleased to tell you that all three of my long grown children are faithful and deeply spiritual individuals.

Their roads were all three rocky at times as they grew up, ventured out and strayed away to varying degrees, but I always prayed for them daily, non-stop, kept an open, loving heart and asked God to keep them safe in His care until they could "see the light" more clearly and He did.

God's agape love is more powerful than anything else in this world; never forget that.

Thanks for the story of Rob and his mother, Patrick. It's encouraging to me, too, as I think about my grandchildren now coming along.

At 10/24/2006 04:58:00 AM , Anonymous dd said...

God's love and the prayer's of Rob's mother are much more powerful than the destructive forces Satan used to destroy the family. Thank you for sharing this with us, for many of us moms have been the "spiritual leaders" in raising our children...all the while longing and praying and begging for our Christian husbands to be more involved...and it is a joy to see our grown sons now being to their families what I prayed they would be...much more involved than their dad was.

At 10/24/2006 04:30:00 PM , Blogger DJG said...

I hope I gave a little like Rob's mother....I can't think of any greater thing that can be said to me than how good my kids turned out.

At 10/25/2006 03:42:00 AM , Anonymous Lance said...

Wonderful example of how the Lord helps those who are faithful become stronger and more dedicated to following his word.
Loved your blog and doing well in Aiken, SC.

At 10/25/2006 09:34:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although completely different in circumstances, my 17 year old son is going through a very difficult time. Fortunately, my husband and I are united in our love for God and in our love and determination to support our son through this. These challenges are new to us, and the answers on what is best are not yet within us. But those who support us, and fortunately there are many, have all communicated the same message...LOVE. Love him through it. When I read your post 2 days ago, we were at our lowest point so far. Nothing anyone said to me made sense. But when I read this, it made me recognize this universal message, that love has to be the basis on which we build up our son. Once again Patrick, as unwilling a vessel as you sometimes claim to be, God has spoken to me directly through you. I am more grateful than you could ever know.

At 10/26/2006 07:55:00 AM , Blogger jettybetty said...

Thanks for sharing--love is powerful--especially when it's God love. I truly appreciate the encouragement I got from this story!


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