“The important thing is not to think much but to love much; and so do that which best stirs you to love.”— St. Teresa of Avila
The second key element in my working definition of love is a willingness to do anything positive for the one you love.
When you love someone you desire their happiness. You are willing to put effort into working for their happiness. Hopefully you understand this also means avoid behavior that brings them discomfort or sadness.
What does God ask from us? What can we do for God to let God know we love God?
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Mic. 6:8 NRS)
Jesus said to his disciples “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (Jn. 14:15 NRS)
I am afraid that most of our religious education is focused more on what we can know and reason with our minds rather that what we should feel and act on in our hearts. Far more hours are spent in a spectator role than in a participating role when it comes to seeking the happiness and joy of God. Too often I have heard individuals state that they have a fine relationship with God when they have done nothing to practice or maintain a loving relationship in the activities of their lives. They say, “I have grace and that is enough.” I cannot help but believe that this is a misuse of the gift of grace and is in fact a diabolical deception.
I did not grow up in a very loving home. In fact, the idea of love was used more as a manipulative tool than as an actual emotional experience. I did not love or was not loved if I did not follow the rules, stay out of trouble, or clean my room. Not only was I unloving if I did not do these things, I faced the certainty of a punitive action so much so that I began to believe that love what only getting beat once a day rather than once an hour. Needless to say I grew up with a very perverted and distorted understanding of love that I am still working to overcome today.
I love my wife. Yet even though I love her I understand that I have done things that have hurt her very deeply. The only redemptive aspect of this part of our relationship is that her love for me trumps my foolish actions. This is grace. Her grace towards me motivates me to want to do things for her that bring her happiness and to seek to correct those behaviors that do not. I believe this is also a model for how I am learning to love God. I love God not because of any manipulation or coercion on God’s part. I love God because of who God is and because of my growing relationship with God. Therefore I seek to learn how to discern what justice God expects. I seek to learn what mercy really is and how it should be lived in my life and I do desire to walk with God, spend time with God and look for ways to demonstrate to God my devotion and commitment.
I believe it is in my spiritual interest to take an honest evaluation, and examen of life daily if not more often. It is through this examen that I reflect and meditate on those activities that are loving toward God and for God and which are not. This helps me keep the relationship more real and active. It provides opportunity to avoid deceptions and erroneous thinking about what my relationship with God should be.
The third element of my working definition of love is our willingness to be completely transparent with the One we love. I will cover this in my next blog.