February 9, 2018

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

The nature of God and his eternal love is all we need to know about love

Cynthia DewesLove is blind. Love is a many‑splendored thing. Love makes the world go ‘round. And on and on they go. Apparently, love is many things to many people. But then, we know that God is love and since God is so various, perhaps all these definitions are true in one way or another.

Most of us experience love in some form. We love our parents, even if they’re not the Waltons or even Archie and Edith. And we love our siblings, although maybe not all the time or not equally. Our love extends to other relatives, too, plus our friends and neighbors, teachers or employers. That’s a lot of people, but we hope to have a lot of love to deal with them.

Sometimes we say we love our work or the subjects we’re studying. We claim to love a book we’re reading or a movie we’ve seen. We even try to share with others some loving moments we’ve had with kids or the dog, just because they were too great to forget. That’s the thing about love: you want to share it with someone.

There is also “tough love,” in which someone is urged to forgo a relationship or a practice because they cause harm to themselves or other people. It’s hard, but sometimes parents or other authority figures must crack down because they love the person they are correcting.

On Valentine’s Day, we focus on romantic love although we don’t forget the other kinds. In romantic love, there is attraction and passion, often physical but not always. There’s a kind of suspension of objectivity, and we tend to perceive the object of our romantic interest as being better than they actually are.

Some people equate sex with love. They “love” this person until going to bed together is not fulfilling enough to sustain the relationship. It seems to me they have the cart before the horse; in order to have long-term, fulfilling sex, the couple must first establish the other parts of their relationship. These include, but are not limited to, similar moral values, compatible goals and attitudes about having and raising children.

Now, we don’t hear as much about what love is not. For one thing, love is not selfish. Not ever. When we are in love with someone, we want the best for them. We are happy to share our material goods as well as our time with them. We listen to them when they speak and decipher what they’re thinking when they don’t. Maybe we argue with them now and then, but we are hearing what the other means.

Maybe we save the last piece of cake for the beloved, or give them the choicest piece of meat. Maybe we sit through a boring TV show that the beloved likes to watch, or we tag along and are pleasant when we’re asked to visit the beloved’s friends. Maybe we sacrifice all reason and eat sushi with them with feigned enthusiasm. “The Things We do for Love” song comes to mind.

The Golden Rule is still Golden: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” means of course to love others as we love ourselves. Our example is God, whose love is eternal. What a great thing to celebrate on Valentine’s Day. Maybe it will even be romantic!

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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