During the holidays, we think about landscaping in an emotional sense as we examine the life principles that foster inner beauty. This has been a yearly series, with this being our fourth edition.
In last year’s article, “The Gift that Heals,” we looked at the importance of forgiveness and how it affects the quality of our life and our relationships. This year we will look at “The Greatest Gift,” which is something that goes beyond forgiveness. If air is a necessary condition for life, meaning that life ceases without it, then this gift is like air for the human soul. This gift is unmatched by anything in this world—be it riches, fame or outward trappings, from the clothes we wear, to the car we drive or the home we live in. All of these together pale by comparison to the power and strength of love.
True love is unequaled. It has many imitators, but no real rivals. When we receive it, it gives us an inner confidence, a kind of peace that tells us that no matter what our circumstances are, we’re okay. Even in sorrow, it is a source of strength. For as submarines reach the depth of the ocean, love can reach the depths of our souls. Love tells us we matter—that we have worth. That’s something we all need to know about ourselves, isn’t it? That we have worth.
Yet self-worth is a funny thing because we can “fake it.” We masquerade with over- confidence or love of self, the “I must take care of me first” attitude, but these are often masks that hide deep insecurity. True self-worth is quiet, it is deep, having been placed and nurtured in our souls by our parents and others who have loved, taught, encouraged and disciplined us. Even when their discipline seemed stern, we understood that the seriousness of their measures spoke to the depth of their love for us. Sink or swim our parents (or other individuals), would not abandon ship. They would stand with us even through our worst screw-ups.
This kind of “stick with it” love is the greatest gift we can give to one another. It is also the greatest gift we can receive, profoundly affecting and influencing the course of our life. From how we respond to the challenges we face to the relationships we develop, love enables us to have confidence in the storms and discern wisely those who will have a say in our lives. For those of you who have been loved in this way, be ever so grateful. You’re like a tree in the garden that has been properly nurtured, growing straight and tall.
So what happens when love is absent? As I was thinking about this question, the TV series “The Walking Dead” came to mind. I confess that I don’t actually watch the show, but I know that it’s about an apocalyptic world in which the dead are somehow alive. That concept seems like a perfect description of what we are like when love is missing. We can be alive outwardly, performing our functions and duties, but inside we feel lost. There is no life or sense of worth. Instead there is an emptiness—a void—that we don’t know how to fill, although we try ever so hard. That sense of isolation and disconnectedness seems to always reappear, as if the main piece of the puzzle is missing.
I realize that the pictures I have drawn are extreme, as though some people are surrounded by love and others are completely bereft. And we certainly all know someone who seems to live in one of those two camps. Yet, the truth is that most of us live in-between. We have experienced love and we have experienced its absence. We also know what it’s like to be hurt by someone we love or to have hurt someone who loves us. Even at our very best, human love is imperfect and
can be messy. It’s just what it means to be human. Nonetheless, there still abides a longing in us to be perfectly loved—if we’re honest with ourselves, which at times is hard to be.
That desire for perfect love is what makes us feel like a piece of the puzzle is missing. But is it a desire that can be met? We already know that human love is imperfect, so that cannot be the answer. What is?
The answer lies in the love of God, which is perfect. His love never changes. It never fails. And it meets our needs on the deepest of levels, filling all the voids and cracks in our not so perfect lives. How do I know this? Because I know the difference that God’s love has made in my life and in the lives of others, and have been mindful of the ongoing changes His love has made in me. Ongoing is an important word to grasp. Just like maturing from child to teenager to adult, so spiritual maturity comes with time, patience and His presence in our lives. But the piece that is missing will be found in a personal relationship with God.
In ending, I thank you so much for spending this time with me.
I know you’re busy. It is my hope that I have encouraged you to give the gift of love, as well as to seek the perfect love of God. If I have touched your heart, I would like to point you to Part II of this article on our website. We talk about how to have a personal relationship with God and answer some of the most commonly asked questions. I’d also like to tell you about our weekly devotional called Vida4U. The word Vida is Spanish for life. If you would like to be included in our distribution, please email me at arthur@Vida4U.com.
Merry Christmas to you and family. It is my prayer that you will experience the greatest gift, that of God’s Love.