It is difficult to understand how much God loves us. While few of us will admit it, much of our lives is spent waiting for God to slam the judgment hammer into our skulls. Working within the mentally challenged community, I’ve come to understand a bit about unconditional love. I am area director of Special Gathering, a ministry to people whose IQ’s are lower than “normal.” Our mission is evangelism and discipleship of the wonderful community the Lord has given to us.
Please understand. People who are intellectually disabled are not immune to sin. Bad behavior is as common within our community as any other gathering of human beings. Yet, there is a common strain that runs within every part of our cloistered sub-culture. That is unconditional love.
Wendy knew that I was angry with her because she had deliberately disobeyed the rules at camp this past weekend. We let it slip the first three or four times; but by the fifth offense, I confronted her regarding her inappropriate behavior. My voice was stern, firm and steady when I explained that she would no longer be welcomed at camp if her behaviors continued.
Wendy’s head reaches almost to my lower chest. She looked at me with wide eyes. ”I love you, Linda Howard. I so sorry,” she said with her eyes welling up with tears. ”Will you forgive me? I love you, Linda Howard.”
Understand, her emotional outburst didn’t loosen my resolve to enforce the camp rules. She was obviously wanting me to know that she loved me even though I had told her that she might miss coming to camp. I could not help but appreciate her unconditional love.
Once again, I was surprised by the joyful spirit Wendy extended to me. Sure, many of our members are depressed. Some of them are even depressing. However, the over arching surprise package is their joy.
Learning from them has become an easy pill to swallow, especially when I am again and again surprised by joy.