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.