For the past two years I have worked at Camp Sandy Cove, a Christian camp nestled up in the mountains of West Virginia. My first summer there I worked as a Chief (the camp’s term for counselor), with the Squaws (the camp’s term for 13-15 year old girls). If you want to feel like a fully insane, fully tired, and fully joy-overloaded individual, I say work at a camp. There is no other place to act like a kid with the title of authority than at camp.
The summer had been wrapping up, and I was on my last cabin of Operation Purple girls before heading back to SC for my senior year of college. Operation Purple was the best week of the summer, as the kids who came were from military families. It’s a great way for kids to be kids and build great relationships with other MKs as well. Since the program is funded by the government, we remove chapel from our schedule, and have a moment of silence before every meal instead of a prayer. We don’t have quit times or cabin devotions, but allow ourselves to be there should any of our kids want to talk about spiritual things. That way we can respect the fact that not all kids who come during OP are Christians.
My group of girls were fantastic! I had a great group that knew how to have fun, knew when they should all take a nap, and knew how to drive me insane. The week was coming to a close, and the girls and I had gotten pretty close (which is a personal goal of mine at camp). A rainy day rest hour had begun, and I was jumping in the shower while there was still some hot water, when I heard the girls talking.
“Love is crying into your pillow at night.”
“Love is wondering if he really does love you.”
“Love is getting your heart broken over and over again.”
Let me tell you, I jumped out of that shower so freaking fast.
“Hold on just a second!”
I stood in front of them in my towel, hair dripping from the three seconds it was under the water, and gave them my best “mom” look.
“Chief? Uh… You’re making a puddle.”
“Yes, thank you Rachel, I realize. I just needed to say something really quick.”
They gave me The Look. If you’re a mom with teenagers, I’m sure you see this look a lot. It’s the ‘oh-god-are-you-about-to-be-super-embarrassing??-yep-ok-here-she-goes’ look. Six of my girls were scattered through the room, laying on bunk beds and curled up under blankets as the rain poured outside.
“Love, my dears, should never be those things. There are emotions you can feel because of love, like feeling heartbroken or hurt, but they should never drive love. If your love is based on whether the other person returns it or not, maybe that isn’t the right kind of love.”
At this point, I wanted to pull out my bible and show them 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, but since no one had technically asked “what the Bible said about love”, I felt weird pulling it out. So instead I racked my brain and hoped I didn’t misquote.
“Love is supposed to be patient. It’s supposed to be kind. It doesn’t get jealous or bossy or demanding. Love is not hurting others to get what you want. Love focuses on the truth and doesn’t hold grudges. Love is protecting people and putting them above yourself.”
It was Rachel who said something first. “Chief…isn’t that from the Bible?”
Leave it to Rachel to know her Bible verses.
I smiled. “Yeah, I guess it is. But here’s my point: Real and true and honest love has absolutely nothing to do with the other person. There was someone I loved once who didn’t love me back. We were best friends and he was dating someone else. And you know what? That didn’t change the fact that I loved him and still to this day love him. Here’s the difference. The love changed. It went from romantic gushy love to a deep friendship love. I knew we would never be in a relationship and that wasn’t what drove me to love him. I love him because of who he is as a person and because of all the time we have spent together sharing our lives. Whether he loves me back has nothing to do with how I feel about him.”
The girls awed and “poor chief”-ed at me, but I stopped them.
“Guys, you’re missing the point. That wasn’t supposed to be a woe-is-me moment. All this happened a long time ago. My point is that love shouldn’t be “crying into your pillow at night”, because that means your love is dependent on their feelings as well. Should that really change the fact that you still love them? Is your love based on their returned affection, or is your love based on who they are as a person?”
After that I went and took my shower, and wondered if that had meant anything or made any sense to them. I’ve thought about that moment a lot, and it was only two months ago when I got another reminder. Cheshire and I were at a pre-marital retreat in Rome, GA called “Prepared to Last”. The retreat was excellent, and he ended up proposing on our last night there. Talk about perfect!
During a session, one of the speakers talked about how sometimes in marriage it can get really hard to love your spouse. They were talking about how the best marriages happen when each person is giving their un-selfish 100% towards the other person. She said, “Remember this: You are called, by God, to love him. But you are not called to be loved by him.” Talk about an ouchy, am I right? Everyone wants to be loved by their person. But when I think about it, whether or not Chesh loves me, shouldn’t change the fact that I love him 100%. And I do. When I marry him, I’m promising to love him through good things and bad things and loving him despite how he feels.
Romantic love changes over time. In fifty years, we are not going to be the same people we are now. But that’s ok. That’s the exciting bit to life. We are going to grow and change and (hopefully) mature. Most importantly we are going to do it together. And I can’t wait.
P.S. If you’re interested on Chesh’s perspective, he wrote a (sort of) similar post here.