The Body Builder Unconditional Love

By Captain Terry Camsey – 

My mother died yesterday. It was quite sudden. She had been sick for a few days, required exploratory surgery, had it and never recovered. Everything happened so quickly that I am sure she had no idea of what she was letting herself in for. She was in her late’80s and, coming round into half-consciousness, was obviously in a very distressed condition. Not surprising, for she had no idea of the major operation that had taken place.

I am at peace with her death. She had a rich life with good and bad times. We went from being quite a wealthy family at one stage to a period when we lived in temporary emergency housing accommodation due to bankruptcy. At no time do I recall that we children (four of us) suffered in any way, nor do I ever recall tension between my parents. They brought us up well, and I shall be eternally grateful to both my father, who died three decades ago, and my mom.

Thirty years is a long time to be alone, but Mom was, I am quite certain, thrilled to be the family matriarch at seasonal gatherings where the whole “tribe” came together…children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She had children, so the family lives, and will live on indefinitely into the future.

At the end she was torn between going and staying. Dad was very prominent in her half-conscious ramblings, but–as she whispered to my sister–she didn’t want to leave her family behind.

Mom taught me many lessons during my life but, unknowingly, she kept one to the very end. It was simply the reaffirmation that death is a part of life…not a cessation of it, but a transition through which the continuous thread of eternal life wends its way. Christians have eternal life now; it’s just that we live a part of it in this world, the rest in that other realm where Jesus is.

Without saying a word she reminded me that, because of her faithful ministry by example, her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and the rest of her extended family may also find their way into the actual presence of God. But, more than that, we have an obligation to carry the message of the cross to others. It’s God’s plan for winning the world. People can count if they will allow themselves to be conduits through which that message flows.

The thought brings sadness, too, though as I think of corps (bodies of Christ) where congregations have grown old together without realizing it. Corps without the assurance and joy of leaving a younger, healthy, reproducing “family” behind. Communities where the Salvation Army presence is in danger of disappearing altogether with the death of the present generation.

I love my mom. She encouraged each of us children to be the unique individuals God created us to be. I don’t ever recall her not letting us associate with youngsters of our own age…She loved us with an unconditional love. Her love was not dependent on what we did but on who we were and are. That’s probably why the family ties are so strong and the bonds of love so great.

It is a lesson I need to learn if the Army family is to survive and thrive. It will not happen as I insist that younger generations must dress, act and talk like me to be accepted. It will as I respect their Christ-likeness (we are each made in the image of God, aren’t we?), offer them Christ’s unconditional love and help them to be sensitive to the Spirit without trying to usurp his sovereign authority.

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