In my 28 years of life, I’ve never been in love the way romantic movies show love. I’m not sure I would even know what it felt like if it came around.
But I have felt love before: a deep, emotional, place-your-needs-above-my-needs kind of love. I’ve experienced the joy of loving another deeply and ran the risk of being rejected. I’ve cried myself to sleep over a broken heart. And in the midst of a relationship, I’ve learned to put God first — not myself or the other person.
Campus ministry has forced me to genuinely and sometimes unwillingly give my heart away to people whether they are or not seeking to have a relationship with God.
When I first said “yes” to the call of campus ministry, it wasn’t without a fight. I knew God had called me to this, but I also had been a student. I knew how cruel and harsh students could be. I knew all too well the rejection it came with and the cost.
My reputation. Friends would ask why I would still want to be on a campus when I spent the last four years working hard to leave.
My work experience. Could I find a “real job” after this campus thing?
Adult friendships. How many more years could I really spend talking about exams I passed years ago?
Being the weirdo. Am I seriously befriending people 10 years my junior?
My marital status. How would I find a spouse when all the guys I know are so young?
But of all these costs, I feared the cost of vulnerability. See, you can’t really show the love of Christ if you are not willing to be open and genuinely love people. Paul writes to the Thessalonians church, “We loved you so much that we delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us” (1 Thessalonian 2:8).
So I can’t just share that Jesus died on the cross for you? I have to actually live out how deeply and profoundly this message has changed my life? Let you in on my joys, heartbreaks and messy life while dealing with yours, too? I actually have to love, with Christ as my example? I was never ready for this!
The Gospel runs and thrives on love! Not that we loved Him but that He first loved us! God demonstrated His love for us in this that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Love is risky, and trying to imitate Christ’s love is the riskiest thing on earth. Jesus doesn’t wait till He is sure you will love Him back. He loves deeply, at great cost to himself, with no guarantee that this love will be returned.
One year, I had come to know three girls. We shared life together, and ultimately, I shared the Gospel with them. But by the end of the year, two of them rejected Christ and rejected me, too. This broke my heart. They had heard the Gospel — even considered it — but the worries and pleasures of the world choked up the seed before it had time to grow. I cried bitterly. These friends that I loved had said “no” to the only True Life. I pray even today that God would again open their hearts to the Gospel because the time for grace is now.
One girl did accept Christ, and this was bittersweet. Sweet because she accepted Jesus, but bitter because the Lord saw it fit for our friendship to last but a short season.
It would have been far easier for me to never have loved these women, therefore never have lost them to the world or another life direction. But Christ still holds their future in His hands, and He still commands me to love.
I’ve tried to share the Gospel without emotions, without genuine love, but people see through this. How can they know the love Christ if His ambassadors do not drip of this love?
How do we learn this love? It doesn’t come naturally. I only see it when I look at how Christ has loved me. While I was still dead in my transgressions, He loved me and brought me out of darkness into marvelous light. It is this love that compels me, because One died and therefore all died, so that those who live would no longer live for themselves but for the One who died for their sake and rose again.
I don’t need romance to know love. I know love, and I press on to love deeply because I am loved deeply.
Namhla Godlo, from sunny South Africa, spends her days doing discipling students on a university campus. She loves people, music, dance and new adventures.
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