Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Love's special effects

One thing I find fascinating about God is that not only does He love each of us as though there were only one of us, as St. Augustine wrote, but He also loves each of us regardless of how special He is to us.

God is a jealous God, to be sure, but He never seems to mind how many gods we worshiped in years past — so long as we clear out all the idols and make room for Him. Indeed, He seemed to take pleasure in the knowledge that evenwhen we were pagans, with our pantheon of gods for every occasion and every lust, we still had a formless statue set aside and dedicated "To an Unknown God." He knew what we didn't: The statue symbolized the vacuum in our hearts that only He could fill — and it was His joy to fill it.

Jesus required faith to perform His miracles, but He did not require love. Perhaps He knew that, for us humans, faith comes more easily than love. Even Peter, who had such great faith that he was the first to declare Jesus' messiahship, ended up denying Him three times. The apostle later had the opportunity to atone by answering Jesus three times that he loved Him. Yet, even then, his expression of love did not measure as high as it could have. Jesus had asked, "Do you love me more than these" (emphasis added), and Peter answered only that he loved Him, not adding that he loved Him more than he did others. But Jesus accepted Peter's answer, just as He accepted Peter's phileo love when He had initially asked for agape love.

If and when I meet the man I will marry, I will want to believe that I am special to him — that the passion he feels for me goes beyond what he experienced with other women he dated. Yet, I know even if he insists he loves me more than them, his previous experiences, however unmourned, will remain imprinted in the recesses of his memory — like a tattoo acquired while drunk, now marking one for life.

Thinking about that would make me feel less special, I suppose — if my definition of "special" meant making the first and only imprint on a pristine heart and body.

I want to be special as Jesus is special; not because I am loved, but because I love.

What that means in a relationship is not seeking to be special to a man, but, rather, opening my heart and letting him become special to me.

If he is the right man, I am certain that I will become special to him as well. But just as God first loved us before we loved Him, I am becoming more and more convinced that in a love relationship, the man and the woman each have to be the first to open their heart.