On the Love of God
God’s love creates and fills the cosmos. This love is so immense and wondrous that our hearts can bear it in only the slightest of glimpses. Out of this boundless splendor, God loves each one of us into existence. Each of us is unique and precious to God, and God loves us more personally and respectfully than we could ever believe. This gives us a dignity that no person, power or circumstance can ever take away from us.
God’s desire for us is to realize and claim this love and dignity, and thereby to move more fully toward loving God and one another as God loves us. Our self-awareness helps make this possible. It allows for a sense of “I and Thou,” lover and loved, and a feeling of the precious, painful space between. In this sense of space and separateness in our hearts, God gives us a part of God’s own longing for love’s fulfillment, a yearning for home, an unquenchable passion for communion and reunion with God and with one another.
God’s love constantly surrounds, penetrates and yearns for us. It deepens the longing of our hearts through all the little tastes of affection, beauty, goodness, and union that we experience with God and with one another during life. But God’s love does not and will not control us. With limitless respect, God insures that our self-awareness is accompanied by freedom. We are free to claim our dignity or to deny it, to bear our yearning or to distort it, to risk really caring for one another or to wall ourselves off, to trust in God’s triumphant goodness or to turn away from it.
We make countless such choices each day, and many of them are wrong. Out of fear, ignorance and selfishness we choose against God’s desire and our own birthright. The consequences of these choices hurt us, and they hurt others, and they hurt God. But no matter what we do or how we feel, God continues to accept and love us, unconditionally and without exception. And no matter where we find ourselves, God embraces us and empowers us to choose to love again.
Love hurts. It requires sacrifice, and it feels risky and often frightening. True love for God and for others can be so beautiful and require such vulnerability that it often seems too much to bear. But God, who has suffered and sacrificed ultimately for love, assures us there is no reason to be afraid; sin and evil exist, but they have no ultimate power in the face of God’s love. The meaning of our lives is determined by our response to this assurance.
To choose love is to risk that we are fundamentally good in God’s eyes, and to risk that God is present, active and good in all situations. When we are empowered to take this risk, our willingness can merge with grace, the active expression of God’s love, and we can relax into trusting, loving action in and with God and one another. Sometimes this relaxing-in-trust results in stillness and quiet openness to God, others, and ourselves in a deepening appreciation of the holy mystery of God’s love. At other times it results in forthright action and radical, powerful vulnerability. Whatever form it may take, the communion of God’s grace and our will enhances the splendor of love, celebrates the ongoing creation of the cosmos, and glorifies the wonder of God and humanity. It increases both the joy and the pain of our yearning, and carries us ever more fully into the truth of how truly precious we are to God and to one another.
From Gerald G. May, Living in Love: Articles from Shalem News, 1978-2008. Washington, DC: Shalem Institute, 2008.