This is an unusual post. It’s an attempt to capture some thoughts I had after a long trail-walk with the Lord. Enjoy!
I love nature, but only because God loves nature. I love my wife, but only because Christ loves my wife. I love my children, but only because the Spirit living within me cares for their souls. But really, I do not love them at all.
It is no longer I who love, but Christ loves in me.
In Christ, everything is subsumed in love. But it is not my love. It’s the Trinity’s love that bathes everything.
The apostle Paul reminds the Roman Christians that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5 NRSV). God is an infinite, inexhaustable fountain of love. And when the Holy Spirit dwells in me, I become a channel for that bottomless love. God himself is the spigot that fills me with his divine love. I am then a sprinkler that distributes his love to those around me. As a sprinkler waters the surrounding grass, so a child of God showers the Father’s love on everyone around him. I am not the lover. I am only a channel, a container, a conveyor of God’s love for his creation. I am but a watering can.
Later in Romans St. Paul says that the indwelling Spirit enables the saved to fulfill God’s commands. The “just requirement of the law [is] fulfilled” in those who “walk . . . according to the Spirit.” And what is the law’s “just” or “righteous” requirement? As Romans 13:9 teaches, the law is summed up in love: Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind; and love your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27. Juxtapose these passages and you see that God is the enabler of love.
Consider the first and greatest commandment, the Shema. Moses instructed the Hebrews to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and strength. Jesus, arriving on earth after the Greek philosophers discovered the concept of pure intellect, added the “mind” to the Shema‘s formulation.
Under the Shema we orient every particle of our will, our intellect, our activity, our emotion, and our consciousness toward the divine object of our love. And we love him with not just part of our feelings, wills, intellects, and lifestyles, but will all of all of them. We love God so much it utterly exhausts our reservoirs, our capabilities. Our capacity to love is completely emptied into God. We are left like limp balloons. If we truly fulfill the greatest commandment, then there is no love left for anyone or anything else. All our love is God’s. We love him only.
Where does this leave me? I do not love my wife. I do not love my children. I do not love my friends. I really believe this. This is how I experience it when I am most in touch with my deepest self.
I do not love them in a worldly way, loving them for my own sake (to possess them, or enjoy them, or use them as means to an end). I love them only because God loves them. I love them as ends in themselves because that is how God loves them because God truly needs nothing from anyone.
I really don’t love the people in my life at all, because after pouring all my love on Christ I don’t have any love left. Rather, when I show affection, when I serve others, when my heart is warmed by the presence of a friend, it is God loving them through me. I love only God. But through his vessel which is my body, God makes tangible his love for his dear creatures. It is his love that is poured into my heart, as Romans 5 observes.
I don’t love you. Not really. I can’t. I’m fully spent. All my love belongs to God. But God loves you so much. And he loves you through me. Maybe I look like I love my friends, family, and coworkers. But pull back the curtain, and you’ll see it’s really God who is the lover. Praise be to him!