“Let love be genuine” 

Romans 12:9

I think this has to be one of the most beautiful statements Paul wrote.

Let love be genuine

let it be real

let it be tangible

let it be unique

let it be authentic

let it be trustworthy

Let love be genuine

This week Rachel’s Challenge has come to Raines High School to speak of the importance of kindness, compassion, understanding, and the chain reaction these things cause.  Today was my day to participate as an adult leader and Paul summarized the day better than anyone else could: love was genuine.

For those who have not heard of Rachel’s Challenge click here (I could not do it true justice) and then keep reading.

The day began as expected, skeptical high school students skeptically participating in warm up challenges (challenges I too would have thought were weird back in the day, but now that I teach nothing seems corny any more… weird how that works).  The two representatives who came to Raines shared their stories, stories that included love and loss and anger and ultimately forgiveness and healing.  And students’ attitudes began to slowly change.  Some teared up while others still were skeptical.  By the middle of the day we were put in small groups, one adult leader and 3-4 students, and asked to give our life story in 60 seconds (which seems short but when you’re bearing your soul to new people it feels like those 60 seconds will never end).  My students opened up a little bit and I got a small glimpse into their lives outside of school, which was enough for my heart to start breaking, as well as their walls.

Lunch came and went and we resumed with more stories and games until the day culminated around the activity called walk the line.  This was a completely silent activity in which both leaders and students participated.  Everyone stood on one line of the gym and a series of questions were read and if your answer was yes you were expected to walk across three feet of space to another line, turn around, and look everyone else in the eyes, and then turn and look at the people standing next to you.  The questions ranged everywhere from “if you are under 20 please cross the line” to “if you have ever been told you can’t cry cross the line” to even “if you have ever been hit because you wouldn’t stop crying cross the line”.  The final question was “if you have ever thought seriously about committing suicide please cross the line.”

Silence. The entire time silence.

So many students crossed the line. So many teachers crossed the line.

And then love flowed in and out of the gymnasium.  Masks came off, walls broke down, people embraced one another in tears because for the first time they were no longer alone.

We were no longer alone.

Everyone has a story.  That person who makes you so freaking angry.  That guy you can’t stand.  That girl who won’t stop talking.  That friend who hurt you.  That family member you swear you’ll never forgive.  Everyone has a story.

And when you can see that story, visually see that there is absolute crap that has gone on and is going on in people’s lives those grudges seem a little smaller.  Annoyances disappear.  Love increases. And the person is finally seen.

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.  Love one another with brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor. “

-Romans 12:9-10

After walk the line we returned to our small groups and the most incredible thing happened: my students let me in.  I got to see into their lives.  Some cried others didn’t, and it was beautiful.  I am so humbled by their trust and their stories.  I am so thankful that now I can see and know that my students truly have so much more going on in their lives than school.   We talked about what we could do to make sure the challenges and encouragements of the day lasted and we came up with several ideas, however I think Paul states it perfectly.

Let your love be genuine

reject the bad

embrace the good

love one another like a brother (or sister!)

outdo one another in love

I love that last one.  Can you imagine a world where everyone actually tried to outdo one another in love? I’m pretty sure that war, abuse, neglect, discrimination, and hatred itself would come to a screeching halt.

I am a little dismayed right now because I know my words will not capture how awesome today was.  But it was awesome, fun, eye opening, heart breaking, inspiring and most of all it was genuine.  I was astounded by the words of encouragement that the students had by the end of the day.  I could see the leaders, counselors, and encouragers that they were all made to be for the first time emerging out of them, and it was an honor.  Today was beautiful, today was genuine, I only hope that I can now be the same to others.  I pray that I too, will love genuinely.