I have wanted to write this entry for a while...
A prayer of mine this past year has been to know God's love in deeper ways. I'm not sure what I expected when I first started praying this. I don't know if I thought I would feel a big hug, deep comfort, bubbly giddiness, etc. I just started praying.
As I have reflected on the year I see that God answered unexpectedly. I experienced a deepened understanding of the unconditional love of God, especially through realizing how conditional my love is. There are quite a few instances of my love's limits. I find it easier to love people when they are total strangers and I have no performance by which to judge them. I find it easier to love people when they are eager to serve and obedient and kind. I find it easier to love people when they tell the truth. I find it easier to love people when they listen to others and seek understanding. I find it easier to love people when pride, power, and posturing is not an issue. The list goes on and on. I'm sure you can add a few of your own.
Basically, I seem to love people when they perform well, treat me and others well and with respect, and are generally perfect in all their endeavors.
The problem is that we don't live perfectly all of the time and neither do the people we interact with on a daily basis.
Yet God's unconditional love reaches and is offered to all of these people - including you and me. How many times do I tell God that I know better, that my way is good, that I'll get around to what God asks of me in my own sweet time...
I think of how the Gospels portray Jesus. He spent time with the outcast, the beleaguered, oppressed, etc. His love offered compassion, healing, hope, and also challenge. He comforted them, and he challenged them to love in return through forgiveness, grace, and hospitality. He also spoke with those who marginalized, oppressed, and maltreated others. While his words seem challenging, judgmental, and caustic, these were meant to call these people to renewal and transformation. His love didn't coddle the abuse and tell them that they were okay and that their words and actions didn't really matter. Rather, he told them that what they did and said effected all those around them. He reminded both groups that they belonged to a larger 'family' than just their family or friends like them. He demonstrated that love may look different to different people in different circumstances. He reiterated that God has chosen to love all people, and therefore they were to love all and not only those of their choosing.
I learned of God's love by being reminded of who we are to love (everyone - even the ones we would rather right off, dismiss, and other wise ignore), why we are to love (because God has offered love to us in spite of ourselves because loves comes from God and is not earned by our success - or lost by our shortcomings and/or failures), and by what power we can do this (because on my own it is impossible, yet God has offered to help us).
When I started I didn't know where it would end. I just wanted to reflect how I learned of God's love through my failings to love and experiencing God's grace and love towards me in spite of my shortcomings.