About two weeks ago I sent my application to Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. I applied for a joint degree (BSN to MSN) Master’s program in nursing. Many of you know my motivation for this step – I want to do nursing in Africa. I feel like it is a useful tool in ministering to these people that I am passionate about. Anyway, ever since writing the essays for the application, I have been thinking about love and what exactly it all means.

“I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, but only more love”.

Mother Teresa

These words have cut me to the core. What is the true meaning of love? We can look to the ultimate picture of love in Jesus Christ. He loved us so much that He chose to die the worst death possible, death on a cross, in order to save us from eternal suffering. Talk about loving until it hurts!

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Ephesians 5:1-2

God has called us to follow His example of love. While He may not require us to die, He certainly asks us to love until it hurts. And let me tell you, when you finally reach this point you won’t want to turn back! You will be so hooked on love that you can’t stop (in fact, you don’t want to!) I have in no way perfected this command, however I have experienced this love and compassion. Let me tell you a story from our time in Zimbabwe last summer.

We walked up a grassy hill to our destination: a mud hut with a thatched roof. We entered the smoke filled hut to find an emaciated woman leaning up against a mud bench warming herself by the fire. The fire was only producing smoke and it was so thick that it made me want to choke. Her name was Sifiso and she was dying. HIV/AIDS was ravaging her body and eventhough she was just 26 years old, she looked 40. I was with a nurse from the US who was serving these wonderful people in the way that Christ called us. As we entered the hut, we exchanged hello’s and Sifiso smiled back at us. We massaged her swollen feet and sang hymns. We sang Amazing Grace because that is what Sifiso wanted. We didn’t do much that visit (well, in my eyes we didn’t), but I am forever changed. I learned the deep compassion of unconditional love that day. This is what God means when He says to love our neighbors even if they are halfway across the world.

Someone from the church we were attending, before leaving for Zimbabwe, had said this to Doug and I: “While you were telling us about your upcoming trip to Zimbabwe, I really felt the Lord tell me to tell you that you will learn a new kind of compassion in Zimbabwe.” Wow! Before we left, I was thinking, well, ok, we’ll see. Now that it has been more than a year and I can look back, I can see that God was doing a major work in my life. He has transformed my whole thought process about love and compassion. I feel like I have graduated to the next level of loving others. He has allowed me to empathize and really feel for these people. I have begun the process of loving until it hurts.

I doubt that Sifiso is still alive. The last I heard, she was close to death, but very alive in Christ! I hope that she has been able to meet her Lord and experience life without pain or suffering. She taught me an invaluable lesson in love and compassion and forgiveness. I have been so impacted by Sifiso that I am putting these lessons learned into practice at the hospital. Things aren’t much different in the USA. There are still people who are hurting and lost. There are still people who are in need of love and compassion. My prayer is that I am able to imitate Christ and walk in love. I want to love until it hurts and keep on loving.

This is Sifiso (right) with her mother.