In yesterday’s post I was trying to describe the multitude of contexts where we use the single English word: Love. My goal in that post and this one is to establish the foundation for a happy life:
It starts with Love.
This is the love that feeds the hungry, cares for the sick, forsakes selfish ambition, overcomes fear, eschews hatred.
The Love we need more of isn’t the casual, throw-away love we’re referring to when we talk about loving a great meal. It’s not the same thing as romantic love, although the type of love I’m talking about (agape) should be present in affirming relationships.
Every human has at least a seed of capacity to understand this love. It’s what we’re all searching for, even when we can’t explain in words what will fill the void and propel us into abundant life.
But even though we have the capacity built into us, it can be really hard to understand Divine love. We’ve all been hurt in life, even by good people. A life of religion and human goodness is no assurance that we truly understand agape love.
I was attempting to write about this early in the morning, February 7, when I ran out of time and had to leave for church.
It was at that service that I experienced one of those moments of serendipity that can’t possibly be mere coincidence. The guest speaker’s message was identical to what I was trying to write about. She was, however, much more eloquent and erudite.
I was going to include her comments in my February 7 post, but it was too long, so I’m sharing the gist of it here, before moving on to the next thesis of the Happy Life Manifesto.
Paula Jones began her message with a story about an elderly woman who said she had done too many bad things for God to ever love her.
As humans, we’re often disappointed in love, Jones explained. We’re human, after all. Even the best of us are incapable of loving others fully as God loves us and that makes it hard for us to understand God’s love.
Other people let us down, hurt us, disappoint us. We judge ourselves harshly. We can’t grasp the Higher Love that is God because we don’t experience it through our human relationships.
Like I was explaining yesterday, Jones pointed out that we lump all kinds of feelings and emotions into the single word love, which further complicates our understanding of Divine Love.
The gist of Jones’ message is the same message that I’m putting forth—Love is the foundational thesis in the Happy Life Manifesto:
We must accept God’s Divine Love,
and love ourselves
so we can love others as we’re called to do.
Jones described the types of love represented by the Greek words: Eros, Philia, Storge, Agape. I touched on these in yesterday’s blog post, Love in English.
Jones also described the varied Hebrew words representing different types of love. I’d never heard an explanation of this, at least not that I remember. The type that’s most similar to agape love is hesed or checed. There’s not a proper English equivalent letter or spelling, so this is an approximation. Translators often use the phrase “faithful love” whenever the Hebrew hesed/checed is used in the Hebrew scripture. This love is unfailing. It’s the type of love that never fails.
Psalm 23 is about this type of love: “Surely goodness and [hesed] love will follow me all the days of my life.” (Verse 6).
As Paula Jones spoke, I felt as if the message she was sharing was intended specifically for me. She was talking about exactly what I’d been trying to express in my blog post earlier that morning.
Here are some more of the notes I jotted down on the service guide:
When we don’t feel the love we need deep down, we don’t live authentically because we’re trying to impress others. When we don’t get what we need from others, we begin to blame ourselves. We don’t love ourselves well, so we punish ourselves through addictions, from shopping to drugs and alcohol, even benign hobbies that become obsessions.
That self-blame and the absence of the good kind of love of self is often why we can’t love others the way we’re commanded to do. That’s the third thesis of the Happy Life Manifesto. We must love ourself.
God’s agape love (or hesed from the Hebrew) is the love that never fails:
Love never fails.
I’m not a theologian and I’m not a preacher. I’m just trying to share the story of my own journey and the Truths that I’ve come to understand in order to move forward.
Here are the first three theses of the Happy Life Manifesto, with a bit of elaboration from the original version.
- It starts with Love.
- You must believe step 1. You must accept the gift of Divine Love that is unfailing and ever-present to those who believe and accept it.
- Love is grace and you must accept this gift of grace and believe that God loves you, even if every other human form of love has failed you.
Yes, faith is required.
Faith means jumping off a cliff without a net into the vast Divine Love that we can’t see. We can only accept that Divine Love is there to receive us and will never fail us. By definition, God’s love cannot fail. Love never fails.
Neither death, nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Sometimes the best way to understand God’s love is to stop trying to explain it in words and just seek to feel it, to know it, through silence. Other times, we just have to accept it and begin to understand it through lived experience, rather than human effort.