By Delexi Riley
Love should make us happy, should give us pleasure, and should be convenient to our lives, right? As soon as we feel misunderstood, or we feel we aren’t getting what we think we deserve in a relationship, society tells us to leave because there are better options. I call this the maximiser mentality.
My first search in google with the question, 'what is love?' gave me this response: 'Love is a variety of different feelings, states, and attitudes that ranges from interpersonal affection to pleasure. It can refer to an emotion of a strong attraction and personal attachment.' If love is only emotion and attraction, then I have grounds to question every relationship in my life.
Society tells us that love is supposed to benefit us right? Maybe to some extent, but I want to take this conversation way deeper. I want to talk about how we are called to love.
Desire To Love
In my own journey of figuring out what love entails, it began with this realization of my desire to love. God gave us the gift of desire. He takes delight in these desires. St. Teresa tells us, 'the Lord takes as much delight in our desires as if they were put into execution.' The first step in learning to love, at least in my own life was identifying my desire to love. Once I realized this burning desire to love and to be loved, I wanted to learn even more about how to accomplish this.
Let the Lord put this desire on your heart by becoming more aware and open to Him. When I talk about the desire to love, I don’t mean the warm fuzzy feeling that is often substituted as our understanding of the word love, I mean something that will completely fulfill the desires of your heart and soul. The desire for complete peace and acknowledgement of hardships without being shaken. I had a desire for love that is resolute in times of distress, doubt, anger or turmoil. I also knew that this kind of love is possible and is written in the depths of our hearts.
After we acknowledge this need and desire for love, we must trust that the Lord is steadfast. 'The Lord is good to the soul who seeks him' (Lamentations 3:25). When we begin with loving Christ, we can place total trust in Him. He has told us he will not desert us. I have realized in my own life that I can’t possibly continue to love when I am not being filled by God’s love. It is both exhausting and tends to become selfish. God has given everything to us, and if we could give Him an ounce of our love He will return it a hundred-fold.
St. John Chrysostom wrote, 'He gave all to you and kept nothing for himself.' Jesus tells us to pray as a way to grow closer in relationship with Him. If my heart can be so attuned to Jesus that I can simply sit and gaze at His presence without any expectations for anything in return, then how much easier and more gratifying will that be for my human relationships? Once I realized that my love for Jesus didn’t have to be so carefully strategic and delicate in fear of being hurt or vulnerable, it was like the gates opened, flooding with a grace bestowed by Him.
Imitate Jesus and Surrender
As I grew further into this journey of trying to figure out how to love, I realized that I wanted someone to imitate. Looking at the way that so many people throughout history, religious or not, anywhere from Dorothy Day, to Martin Luther King, to Mother Theresa, there was at least one overarching theme. These figures along with many more take up a surrender of their selfish desires. They saw a need, and although the work was at times arduous and tedious, these were the little ways they were laying down their lives for what/whom they loved. This is what Jesus did for us. His cross was so heavy to bear that he cried out to God, but with love he bore it for every human heart. I trusted that Jesus is steadfast, I have an example to set out to follow, but I still had the burning desire to put that into action. So, what next?
Selflessness And Action
Love does not look out for the needs of itself, but for those whom it loves. In a world of self-gratification and success, it’s no wonder that our love has a tendency to be skewed. Christ wants our whole hearts, and that leaves us no room for selfishness. Mathew 22:37 reminds us, 'You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart.' I mean geez, demanding, right? But when we actually start giving of ourselves in these ways, we receive so much love. To give love is such a gift, and when it is given in a way that expects nothing in return, our hearts are fulfilled. When we allow ourselves to be receptive to the opportunities that mantle our everyday life, we see that this love is written on every human heart, in the moral law, in the words not spoken, and in the deeds unseen.
Love Is Possible
I know in my own life, as I think about my different relationships, I fear that I won’t know how to love those around me like they deserve. I was reminded that by looking to Christ first, he fills our hearts with His perfect, endless love – and if we are receptive, that love will outpour on all of those around us. There is no equation, no doubt, and no fear when Christ is present. I challenge us to have patience with ourselves no matter where we are on the journey and to trust in our capacity to make the choice to love!
Article inspired by The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ by Saint Alphonsus Liguori