Saturday, July 21, 2007

Celebrating Love

by Millie Chan, GCF Ecommentary

A climb up Mount Kinabalu has always been on my itinerary this side of heaven. When a date was finally scheduled for the climb, Tze-Lin my 12-year-old daughter expressed keen interest to participate in the adventure.

My husband thought it a great idea for her to attempt the challenge with me. But I was hesitant to include her, citing my concern over how difficult the journey would prove for her. If truth be told, I was worried she might not finish her climb and might cause me to give up on my attempt. So I warned her that if she should decide to abandon the climb, she would have to return to the base with the guide as I
would want to proceed on. She agreed.

The 6km trek to Laban Rata (mid-camp) was strenuous, but it was the 2.7km ascent to the summit that proved to be the real challenge. We started at 2.30am in pitch darkness and chilling temperature.

20 minutes into the climb, Tze-Lin told me the disturbing news that she was nursing a tummy ache. Every time the pain attacked, we were torn with the dilemma whether she should return with the guide or continue with us. With each step towards the summit, I became more obsessed with finishing the climb but Tze-Lin was progressively
inclined to turn back as exhaustion diminished her resolve.

When the peak was 1km within reach, she told me she was too tired to go further. At that moment, I decided to abandon the climb and take her back. She was aghast that I should give up what I had wanted so badly to achieve and told me she wanted me to reach the peak. But I was adamant about going back with her.

That was the defining moment for the both of us. From then on, she did not speak again of turning back. We moved step by step and hand in hand. 1 1/2 hours later we reached the peak together and stood above the clouds amidst the Lord's great works of wonder.

What were the dynamics at work between us that morning?

When we set out to climb, we were working on parallel priorities: my goal was to reach the top at all costs; hers, albeit similar, was diluted with a child's inclination to cater for her own immediate physical comfort. All my initial verbal expressions of love, encouragement and cajoling did nothing to bridge the gap. She merely responded by telling me how difficult it was to carry on.

However when I set aside my own agenda to make her comfort my priority, she instinctively responded to that act of love by forsaking her own comfort so as to see me reach my goal. How strange we behave when our love for each other is at work.

Jesus urges us to love one another as He loves us (John 15:12). There is nothing new about the command to love, since Leviticus 19:18 teaches us to "love your neighbor as yourself". But the new element is the change from "as yourself" to "as I have loved you". How does Jesus love us?

He gives us a foretaste of what His love entails when He says in the next verse "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:13). The call to love is not a passive command engaging us only on an emotional level. It is to be acted out – the putting aside of oneself for the other.

Christian love now has Christ's sacrificial love as its model. His love is characterized by giving and glad surrender. And when we receive Christ, this capacity to love sacrificially is imprinted in our human hearts. The act of service not only communicates our love, it completes the love; it is love's appointed consummation. The difficult part is to overcome our self-serving nature. This is a day by day, moment by moment endeavor. The goal is to look beyond our own space long enough to discern the circumstances of those around us.

The minute I put Tze-Lin's needs before mine, I felt strangely right. There was a sense of order in my inner landscape. I was released from the bondage of my selfish pursuits. But her response took me by complete surprise. She appeared to have been spurred on to greater resolve by my (unconscious) demonstration of love for her. It was as if she found more meaning to her effort. To see me reach my goal became a greater driving force than her own comfort.

Indeed children are more skilful in recognizing our feelings by our behavior. Probably because they are less distracted. They "listen" to the way we behave and can easily detect acts of love. When their emotional tank is filled, they give generously in return.

God has gone to extravagant lengths to love us. Not all of us will be called upon to lay down our lives for others. But daily there will be opportunities to set aside our own needs to respond to others. Usually it doesn't involve anything dramatic but when we reach out in love, our act of service never returns empty even if the other party does not know it. We will be soaked in His love.

Just read Jesus' promise given in John 15:10 before He gives us the commandment to love: "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love".

On that summit, we celebrated not just a successful climb. We celebrated LOVE.

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