A Thought About Love
As I sit reading a bit of SørenKierkegaard, little girls are happily playing next door. If there is anything sweeter than the laughter and squeals of tiny persons sliding down a slip-n-slide on a summer’s day, I can’t think of what it might be.
From whence comes the delight of a child? Surely, from love.
But, from whence comes love? Love has but one source – love comes from the God who is in essence love.
By “love,” I mean agápe, not the narcissism some label love, and not even the éros, philía, or storgē that, although genuine, are subordinate. The physical expression of love, the pleasure of beauty (éros) can be good, even if corrupted by marking departments. Family love (storgē) connects spouses, parents, children and siblings and is the backbone of civilization. Deep abiding friendships (philía) result in self-sacrificial acts of courage. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
At some level, all real love comes from God, but here I speak of agápe, which is only found fully and completely and perfectly in one place. Its source is the trinitarian God who by very nature isagápe. Its perfect manifestation is Jesus. Jesus’ life, teachings, actions, miracles, and, supremely, enemy-forgiving love on the cross, showed the world that which it had not known previously – agápe. Agápe is perfect, divine, cruciform, unending, eternal, unconditional, self-sacrificing, enemy-forgiving, all-inclusive, nonviolent altruism.
No parent, no matter how supportive and altruistic, can impart love in a child. No person can impart or create love in any other person. That the child’s heart filled with love is a reflection of the Imago Dei.
Love sees all things. We are told that love is blind. Nonsense. No one sees more clearly than the stoic parent of an alcoholic. Blind love is selfish love. Blind love sees the other as one to be acted upon, a project more than a person. The other exists only that we might change, fix, or have the satisfaction of loving. Blind love enables. It leaves the addict to die while feeling the self-righteousness of chosen martyrdom. True love sees with crystal clarity. It seeks what is truly best for the other. It is never codependent.
Love bears all things. Kierkegaard points out that just as the person of strong robust physical health can eat and digest a wide variety of foods, so the person inundated with God’s love is able to “stomach” the idiosyncrasies and irritations of the other. The one inundated with God’s love knows at the core of her soul that she is the beloved of God and nothing can take that away. Her own love is not dependent on the other. She sees the hidden love, the Imago Dei, in the other and hardly notices the peculiarities.
Love hopes all things. Believing that love is there in the heart of the other, regardless of how rebellious, callous, or unthankful the other may be, is what causes us to look with joyous anticipation for that time when the prodigal will return. It is the father’s love. It knows that Omnia Vincit Amoris not sentimental claptrap.
Love endures all things. Indeed, it is able to endure whatever comes with the imperfect beloved in a fallen world because it knows that under the imperfections, transgressions, and damage that cloud it from sight, love, God’s love, is there. That is why love never fails.