Thursday, November 7, 2013
“Now may God himself, our Father, and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen our hearts…” 1 Thessalonians 3: 11-13a
Do you know what unconditional love is? It is love for Love’s sake.
About six months ago my youngest child was born. And for the first month or so all she could do was eat, cry and poop. She couldn’t smile, couldn’t talk, couldn’t walk. She was not able to laugh or smile. She couldn’t hug me or look me in the eye. In fact, she didn’t even seem to recognize me in any special way at all.
And yet I loved her. I loved her with a love so deep, so consuming, so fierce—all I could was hold her and cuddle her and take care of her. And I got nothing tangible in return. There was nothing she could DO to make me love her more or less. I received nothing in return for my love for her, except the joy of loving her. And that was enough.
As we get older and we experience more of the pain and reality of life, as we see firsthand the effects of sin and witness rage, manipulation, jealously, pride, selfishness and greed, we begin to lose sight of unconditional love. We can be tempted to believe that it doesn’t exist. We begin to believe the lie that we are only lovable when we do something good or achieve something remarkable. We begin to love others not based on their inherent worth and dignity, but based on what they do for us..for what they give us. We can end up spending so much time and energy building layers of protection around our hearts that eventually we entomb ourselves in the bitterness and loneliness of isolation. Ultimately we can even forget the love of God, the love of Love Himself.
We can also be fooled into thinking that love has limits and that we can’t love everyone. We give up on marriage because we fear a love so total, faithful and fruitful. Or we only have one or two children because we assume that we can’t give equal amounts of love and attention to more children than that. Perhaps we engross ourselves so much in our daily tasks, be it school, or work or home, so that we don’t have to face the lack of true intimacy in our relationships with family and friends.
In and of ourselves, it is true…we are not capable of loving without limits. Relying on our own meager efforts, gifts and energies, we cannot do it. Because we are finite, our ability to love does at some point reach its capacity. And yet, when we immerse ourselves I the infinite and unconditional love of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit…there is no limit to our capacity to love. When the love we seek to give and receive flows from the Love that is always giving and receiving, always self-donating, always unconditional, always now and forever…then we too, can live in a world with limitless love.
Like with a newborn infant, we learn to love for Love’s sake. And nothing more. That’s when our hearts change..and the world changes with it.
Dear Jesus, please help me to live in the reality of Your unconditional, always-present love so that I can love others without limits. Amen.