My faith tells me that God is Love, but what does it really mean to me, in this world, to be loved and what does a relationship that embodies love look like? Is it one in which whatever I do and say is okay and praised by the other? One that is free from struggle, obstacles or disagreement along the way? “No,” and “No,” I do not believe so.
In looking around and considering society and relationships, sometimes “unconditional love” is twisted to justify words and actions that are self-serving and self-centered. Sometimes it is used to justify silence and inaction in the face of injustice or wrongdoing. Unconditional love does not mean saying “Yes” all the time. Although it is boundless or unrestricted, it calls us to say and to hear “No,” at times when we do not want to as well as to say and hear “Yes,” at times when we would rather not. Either way, it calls me to recognize that there is a time and a place for me, for us, and others, to be challenged…to be called to peel back the layers and look more closely at the root or the source that is driving us and motivating us.
On the surface, unconditional love may be mistaken for blanket approval. However, the road that is paved both on the surface and with nothing but approval and praise at every turn is called deceit. It leads to sinkholes, degrades the conscience, encourages indifference and ultimately, leads to defeat.
To the contrary, unconditional love does not need to be covered up. Where it exists, pretending, hiding or the stifling of thoughts and feelings, cannot. That is because its very nature calls for acceptance, honesty, and forthrightness; not exclusive of each other, but altogether and intertwined with each other.
So how can one know or sense the presence of unconditional love? For starters, where unconditional love exists, there is freedom…freedom to be oneself, but never at the expense of others and always alongside them. Another telltale sign, true love is never in a vacuum. It extends beyond oneself and beyond the relationship. Finally, and most importantly, unconditional love is always through the grace of God. Pray for it and you will receive it. Cherish it and it will flow through you.
“…Love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.” – 1 Timothy 1:5