Since I have been a wee child I have known the song, "Jesus loves me" this I know for the Bible tells me so... How can it be that I am still assimilating this truth at this stage in my life? Who is this Man of Galilee that knows me enough to love Me? Not me, collectively as in all of us...but ME?
I was well into my adulthood when I began to think about this pure love of Christ or the unconditional love that He has for me. I never felt I was able to be unconditionally loved or loving without fear of losing that love, until we had children. That gave me a glimpse of what it felt like to love and be loved in that way. Until those three, I never felt anyone was mine in a way that no matter what they did, I would still love them (or they me) completely, purely or unconditionally. It was as though my feelings, my wants and needs were not part of the equation, when I learned about unconditional love as I felt for our babies. There was no pride or selfishness at all.
I loved them completely because of who they were. And I knew they loved me in the same way. I was their Mommy, that was enough for them. In all their imperfections and mine the love never wavered. The astonishing thing was it came so naturally. It was not a struggle, I didn't have to keep trying for it. It just was and I never doubted it or questioned it, no matter what they did. I know their Dad feels the same. This is a kind of love that transcends the earth. It is divine. It is also quite interesting to recognize that grandchildren also inherit this type of love as well. It is their birthright.
I remember the first time I felt unconditional love. I remember the hour, the moment and the rapture of it as though it were a moment ago. I was lying in a hospital bed around 10:00 pm in Las Vegas, Nevada. I had just given birth to Jennifer at 3:38 that afternoon. Jim had gone home reluctantly, after visiting hours and our tiny girl was in the nursery. The day had been filled with excitement, hard work and euphoria that would not let me sleep as I pondered what had just happened.
Suddenly I felt a deep sadness come over me. The thoughts were along the lines of...this is the most important day of our lives together...why are we all in separate places? It was not normal, or natural to the point of being physically painful. It was not long after that that the nurse brought our little burrito-wrapped baby into to me for the first time.
She looked so beautiful with her dark hair long enough to be combed and curled over a nurse's finger before her grand entrance. Her cheeks were so rosy and her eyes the deepest blue! Her irises covered her entire eye sockets, not even a glimmer of the whites of her eyes were visible. I held her in the crook of my left arm and began to talk softly to her in the quiet of that cold, mint green hospital room.
As I gazed into her eyes and she into mine...it happened. Just like a bolt of gentle and tender lightning our love was sealed to me. It was spiritually electrifying. By the time Chris and Laura were born it was there in all its glory, but not as dramatically presented because by then I was well acquainted with it. That gift that is inherited by grandchildren may even come before their actual birth I discovered. It is miraculous, penetrating, instantaneous and unconditional love!
Any number of things our children and grandchildren do may irritate us, saddened us, even offend us but the notion of withdrawing our love is not even an option, not even a thought. This is different that worldly love, isn't it? It is about God's Work and His Glory: to bring to past the immortality and eternal life of man, woman and child. Our families teach us how to love unconditionally in the most conducive setting. We are all a part of a family, past, present and future.
It seems so completely different than the way we experience love in the world. Hearts are broken constantly by a trust that fails when someone gives and takes back their definition of love at will. How many of us guard our hearts because of experiences like that that we have had? I would venture to say most of us. We learn to protect ourselves by expecting less of people who say they love us and then hurt or abandon us. It can be parents or spouses or siblings or friends...it doesn't seem to matter.
But the Savior will never love us like that. There is safety and peace in His love. And even more important is that He never misunderstands us or judges us unworthy of His love. He never tires of doing all in His power to care for us. He knows us without our having to prove ourselves by our words or deeds. He just "gets" each of us to the depths of our heart and loves us, as is. No qualifiers. No conditions. Just Love, the kind we all yearn for from the deepest part of us. We have that in Him. What does He ask in return? What is the greatest commandment, the one that all the laws of the Gospel hinge upon? In Matthew we read.
King James Version (KJV)
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
Why do we love Him? The scriptures tell us because He first loved us. Not only that but He shows us how to love so that we can get on to the next commandment which is like unto the first. So that we might love our neighbor as ourselves.
Because on these two commandments hang all the laws and the prophets. To me that is saying that if we can master these three things, life will be the very best.
Love Him as He loves and teaches us, Love ourselves as He loves us
and love our neighbors as He loves all of us.
It is the beginning and the end of a perfect plan. Mastering that kind of love is key. Love is what we give. Just as Love is what He gives. All the other commandments comes easier to us when we have the foundation of unconditional love in our lives. First His and then our own for Him and for all His children including ourself.
That kind of love that looks outside of our own wants and needs and to Him and His children around us is the goal. It takes a life time and probably longer. It is not easy nor was it meant to be. It is a refining process. It is growing in His Gospel. It is repentance and forgiveness, it is faith...lots of faith in Him. It is learning to be humble and teachable. It is forgiving ourselves when we fail miserably at His kind of love. It is getting up, dusting ourselves off and keeping our eye on the target. As we become more like Him we never want to hurt another person no matte what sacrifices are required of us. He has shown us what an ultimate sacrifice for another is by His atonement for us.
It is simple and yet so profound. I constantly find myself having to relearn this and I am so far from being where I want to be. I guess the first steps are seeing His unconditional love for us, then seeing Him as our example and then following Him. He is God; we are mere mortals with but a spark of divinity within us. But we can make progress. We have that hope and that faith for the very fact that He is our God in whom we trust. And we see evidence in many around us who are farther along the path than we are. Our Prophet, the Apostles, the very special and loved people in our lives that are closer to loving as He loves. They are all around us to lead and inspire us on our way.
I am grateful for the chances and choices placed before me and I want to love as He loves. I never want a person I love to doubt my love for them. I want to be a person of tender mercies as He is. It requires us to overcome the natural man inside of each of us. It requires us to be obedient and trusting, and it requires work. It is a good work to be engages in and it brings happiness in the struggles. The greatest understanding I have gained of this kind love is through being a parent. It helps me to know that the Savior loves us in that way and I find comfort in it. I hope you do too in whatever way He teaches you.
So what do we need to do to be worthy of His love? Absolutely nothing. He simply does Love us unconditionally. What do we need to do to partake of His promises of joy in our eternal life? Humble ourselves to follow Him, to be taught by Him and redeemed by Him and perfected or made whole in Him. Does He coerce us and force us to comply? No, He offers us all that He has and then allows us to choose for ourselves. What a gift for us to be able to choose. As Joshua said, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24:15.