“Do you really think I could go to Havasupai with you?” the boy asked, his dark eyes alight with hope and his dark brow already damp with sweat. Plump body, thin wallet, questionable grades, unquestioning trust….Could he make the 26 mile round trip into and out of the Grand Canyon? How would he get the $225 necessary to pay for his transportation and camping fees? Would he be able to access the necessary equipment; backpack, tent, camping stove, supportive shoes? “Yes, yes, yes,” I assured him. Love for the unremarkable young man almost overwhelmed me. I had no idea how we would solve his logistical challenges but I knew that I’d help him find a way to do it …or die trying.
What happened? Love. It hit me. Broadside. Clobbered. BOOM!
After much study, much experience, and much pondering, I have discovered something that most of you already know. Love is a gift. It is a gift given to us from God. Often unexpected, quite often unearned, and too often unrecognized, God gives us the heart-swelling, soul-filling, make-life-meaningful feeling we call love. There is no other explanation for it; it has to be a gift from God.
Let me explain.
Three weeks ago I began teaching science to about 100 8th graders at Ogden Preparatory Academy. Who loves eighth graders? All of their mothers, most of their fathers, and me. I love those kids! I don’t even know all of their names yet but I love them, every one of them. I love the brash boy in fourth period who thinks he is too good to wear his name tag; I love the quiet, watchful boy in second period who came alive when I mentioned playing on the line in football; I love the long-haired Latina who winced when I mispronounced her name…..again; I love the boy in the back who had the courage to say Joseph Smith’s name during our discussion comparing and contrasting science and faith; I love the wisp of a girl who was so curious about the Black Box that she hitched up her long skirt and climbed onto the counter to examine it.
I honestly love those kids. All of them. I am seriously amazed at the depth and breadth of my feelings for them. It is truly a gift from God, a gift of the Spirit given to me. What else could explain the deep tenderness I feel for every student? Affection for one or two of them could be easily explained—who wouldn’t love the vibrant, vivacious girl who brought me flower pens her grandmother made or the earnest young man who diligently re-wrote his pendulum lab so he could raise his grade from 23/25 to 25/25?—but love for every one of them, even those whose names I really do not know, whose faces still blend into the crowd, who I would not yet recognize as a student in my class if I saw them in the grocery store but for whom I would stay after school, hug in the hall, or march into the fire for if I sensed the need? How does one explain that? It must be God. There is no other explanation.
Love is a gift from God. But why does it work?
Bob Marley said, of husbands, “He will give you a part of him that he knows you could break.” This is true of students too. I find eighth graders easy to love because they are, as yet, unpolished and unjaded, not yet sophisticated enough to hide their desire for acceptance, their willingness to please, their zest for learning. Still willing to trust, to hope, to share their hearts, they show me a part of them that is fragile. It is the glimpse they give me into their hearts that captures mine.
We all have hearts like 8th graders; it is just that we are more skillful at veiling our needs, hiding our hopes, understating our strengths, concealing our fears, and masking our insecurities. Inside, we too have children’s hearts. This, I think, is why God’s gift of love works. It works because it allows us to see the hearts of God’s children no matter what their chronological age may be. Love changes our vision to His vision. We see a bit of what He sees and, therefore, we love a bit like He loves. This is why I love all my eighth graders; His gift allows me to see their hearts and, because they are all His children, they all have lovely hearts. I am enamored by the beauty I see there in all of them.
Love is a divine gift that works because it gives us God’s vision. Vision requires light. Christ brings light, in fact, is light (John 8:12). Light and vision are inseparably combined physically; Christ and love are inseparably combined spiritually. Vision is a temporal gift; love is an eternal gift. COOL!
COOL! COOL! COOL! And the coolest part of this whole “love is a gift” thing is that gifts can be given. Love is not something that one has or one does not have, like blue eyes or a sense of humor. Love is something one can get by asking. All one has to do is ask. And—this is another cool thing—the giver of the gift is Christ who just happens to be the most gracious, generous, giving giver-of-gifts to have ever existed. Glory be! How easy can it be?
Really. Love is a gift from God available to all of us, just for asking. Of course, Christ is big on sincerity so our requests have to be heart-felt to be vision-changing but still………not too hard. Right?
Right. Love is a gift. Put in your request today.
Look at the photos below and tell me................What's not to love about 8th