I have never met anyone who prefers the lack of love instead of love. I agree with many writers in multiple spiritual traditions that humans want to love and to be loved. I conclude that is a basic human desire. I am sure we could point to the occasional person for whom this might not be the case. But that person, I argue, is a person who has somehow become deformed or was malformed as he or she grew. I have never read in any spiritual tradition where we don’t come to love at some point.
I have read so much about love that I sometimes think I have forgotten more than I have remembered. I recognize how easy it is to think about love and even to write about love. To think about love and to write about it does not mean necessarily that I am very good at loving. In fact, most days I still feel like a kindergartner when I think about my capacity and execution of love. So I welcome one more time to ponder love and see if I can continue to learn and to grow.
As I think about what I know about love, my best teachers have been people I have known throughout my life and some authors whom I have never met, but who have immensely helped my understanding of love. My real live teachers of love have been my parents, spouse, my two kids and my friends. It makes little sense to try to pinpoint who has taught me what. Thankfully, they have taught me a few things.
Among the authors who have taught me well I would list Jesus, the Buddha and Augustine, an early Christian saint. More contemporarily, Gerald May, the late psychiatrist and founding member of the Shalem Institute in Washington DC., Alan Jones, the now-retired Dean of the Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco, among others, have been so instructive. Again without trying to identify which ones taught me what, let me note a couple key points about love that are central to my spirituality and my life.
Perhaps the most important piece in my spirituality is the biblical affirmation that God is love. That is a core truth for me. It helps me in two ways. In the first place to say that God is love is a way of understanding God in such a way that God is not “really a person.” Intellectually, I know God is not some guy in the sky. To say God is love is to affirm something I feel like I know is true. Even though I am not sure how to define love, I know it is true. It is powerful; it is creative. It is life-giving and life-changing. And love is so much more.
All those truths about love become truths about God---the source, the energy and embodiment of love. Love is not a person, but it is a force and energy. It has no hands, but it is a force that uses my hands to love divinely. When love comes into me and flows through me, then God becomes personal. In some ways this points to the truth of the person of Jesus. Jesus was the one in whom the God who is love so fully entered the human realm, that Jesus became so special he became the Source of an amazing group of people and tradition called Christianity.
But that God who is love did not stop with Jesus. God as love keeps coming to and coming into people. I am sure God has come to me and, hopefully, comes into me. I am not Jesus, but I am like Jesus when I embrace and live out of that love. I don’t become god, but I do become god-like when I embrace and allow that love to flow and flourish in me.
If I become a little more philosophical or theological, I want to affirm that love is the ground of my being---of our being. I could capitalize those words to make them seem more holy. I could say that the God who is Love permeates and penetrates the world. That God who is Love is, in fact, the Ground of our Being. That means that Love is the creative Source of my life, the Sustaining Resource of my living and the Culminating Source of my journey through life.
I am sure other theologians have said something like I want to say: we were created by Love, created for love and by loving we become creative. It is really that simple and, doubtlessly, that complex. I don’t want to chase the complexity of love. Let’s keep it simple.
The key to the spiritual life is to know love, to practice love and to bear love’s fruit. If I am not doing this, then I am part of the problem. When love is missing or done poorly, there are problems. It is simplistic to suggest that love is always the solution, but it may be close to the truth.
The practical, daily question that we should ask is whether we have been loving each day? We need to be honest. We need to intend to grow in our ability to love more fully each day. We commit to minimize the times we blow it when it comes to love. Love is the ground of our being. Let’s stand firmly on that ground and walk into the fullness of a loving life.