Real Love Ain’t Pretty

Real Love Ain’t Pretty
April 25, 2012 0

More often than not, real love ain’t pretty.

It doesn’t fit into a neat little box. It isn’t defined by grandiose gestures and stirring proclamations, despite our culture’s false depictions.

Real love is painful. It demands sacrifice and surrender. Pride must be swallowed, and ego must be fought at every turn. The needs of another must be elevated over the needs of self. What a daunting, unappealing prospect!

The staffers at Sewa Ashram embody the call of Christ – “washing one another’s feet” (and arms and legs) on a daily basis.

The staffers at Sewa Ashram embody the call of Christ – “washing one another’s feet” (and arms and legs) on a daily basis.

The love of parent for child is an easy one. That unconditional love is present from the get-go for most. But what about our friends? Our family? What about strangers? Even worse, what about our enemies?

Acts of Love

Here at Sewa Ashram, I’m surrounded by Love. The examples I see on a daily basis leave me in awe. They inspire me. And they shame me. I’m dwarfed by giants of love here, and I’m no match.

I see people caring for others with an attitude that can only be described as divine, in which monumental significance is found in the smallest of acts.

The smallest gestures have the greatest impact, giving patients a renewed sense of self.

What am I to do when I watch a wheelchair-bound patient tenderly feeding the man now confined to his death bed? How do I reconcile the cheerful demeanor on a staffer’s face with the urinal bottles he’s busy cleaning out, after collecting them from patients?

Everywhere I turn here at the Ashram, I watch love in action. I see staffers washing and scrubbing bodies of other grown men, which have been sullied with every imaginable

The smallest gestures have the greatest impact, giving patients a renewed sense of self.

The smallest gestures have the greatest impact, giving patients a renewed sense of self.

filth. I see gaping, festering wounds being mended. I watch the scraggly beards of street life being shaved clean. I catch a glimpse of the staff member who fetches a blanket, tucking it around a patient who’s feeling the morning chill. I watch as three men surround a patient, lay their hands on him and pray, after informing him he has mere weeks left to live.

Love is far from glamorous, but it’s powerful. And even if you’re wheelchair-bound, you can put your faith into action.

Love is far from glamorous, but it’s powerful. And even if you’re wheelchair-bound, you can put your faith into action.

Love is far from glamorous, but it’s powerful. And even if you’re wheelchair-bound, you can put your faith into action.

Power

These smallest of gestures pierce my heart, but I’m not the only one. The Love that permeates this place is palpable for all who enter the front gate.

“There are two kinds of people who come here from off the streets,” a staffer explained to me soon after I arrived. “One will be loud and angry, swearing all the time. The other will be quiet, not saying a word to anyone.

“But as time goes by, the loud patient will grow silent. And the quiet patient will start to open up and begin speaking.”

Real love is powerful, and its effect is universal. Love cuts through the layers, breaking down the hardened walls of anger and defensiveness. And it builds up the foundations of dignity, empowering people with a renewed sense of worth.

Sewa Ashram is transforming lives through this power of Love. It may not be pretty, but it’s surely divine.

About Stephen Crane

Stephen Crane is a year-long fellow with World Next Door. He has a bachelor's degree in theology from Calvin College and a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University. He has a passion for overlooked places and people and would snowboard at all times if it were possible!

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