“Make love your aim.”
Many years ago while serving as a youth pastor in Billings, Montana, the high school group asked if I would arrange a canoe trip to the Boundary Waters area of northern Minnesota. One of the young men who made that trip (I’ll call him Ben) was a reluctant participant and only decided to go at the last minute, after much prodding by his parents. Ben was shy, a bit overweight and found it difficult to enter in to tasks with others. He had a tendency to complain easily and it wasn’t long before tensions arose when it became common knowledge that Ben would be going. Some of the other kids complained that Ben would not do his fair share of the work. They were concerned that Ben would be dead weight.
After several long days of travel we pulled in at last to our destination. Two days later our canoes slipped into the water and we were off for ten days in the wilderness.
Canoeing in the Boundary Waters is no walk in the park. Not only is there the constant paddling but there are also many portages where the canoes and gear must be carried overland, between lakes. Sometimes these portages can be a mile or more. During the first few days Ben endured a lot of ribbing along these portages. He usually took up the rear and didn’t carry much. Then it happened that one of the kids, Sandy, twisted an ankle and she asked Ben if he would carry her pack along with his own. Everyone was somewhat surprised when, without complaint or hesitation, Ben hoisted a pack on each shoulder and forged ahead. He carried Sandy’s pack every day from then on.
Something happened to Ben that day. Without being asked he began to offer his help to others in the group. He had a new kind of energy about him. No longer was he the sluggish follower bringing up the rear. The transformation was nothing short of remarkable.
One morning as we prepared to break camp I took Ben aside and asked him what had happened to bring about such a change, such a desire to help. He told me that when Sandy asked him to carry her pack he felt, for the first time, like he was part of the group. And he realized that meant not feeling sorry for himself but pitching in and helping where he could.
Ben’s new spirit was infectious. Oh, he was still the object of bantering, but now the good will and love that surrounded him was palpable. Ben’s selfless giving became the story of that adventure and it brought everyone to life. He was a little Christ to all of us.
Fulfillment, joy and freedom are the gifts of God that sneak up on you as you go about loving and serving others. Concentrate on yourself and these things will elude you. Make love your aim and you’ll get fulfillment and everything else thrown in.
“May the peace of Gods that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”