On eagles wings: Our recovery from Coronavirus (XXXVIII). The love of God.
Some years ago I bought a book from Max Lucado “A Love Worth Giving”, and I read it flying on airplanes from San José, Costa Rica to Guatemala city. At that time we were doing a consulting mandate for the main Guatemalan concrete and cement producer, and we had to travel every week. Anyway, I took this book out from my library last week, to re-read it and find out that this book is such a blessing for all of us during these pandemic times.
If you did your homework (define love and write it on a piece of paper) during the weekend, I am sure you had such a hard time to define “love”. Why? Because every time we want to provide a love definition, it happens that is limited. Probably, once we finished to write it, and we re-read it, then we found out that whatever we wrote about love lacks something, or maybe a piece of information is missing, or we begin to confuse love with the different levels of love, at the fraternal, at the community or romantic level. Who could have told us that defining love is tough, isn’t it?
Well, the first part of today´s article is based is a comparison of all our work from the last weeks when it comes to ethical virtues, with “love characteristics” found at the bible´s 1st Corinthians 13:4-8.
Love characteristics found at 1st Corinthians 13:4-8. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails”.
When we read the last Bible Paragraph from the Apostle Paul, we can connect the dots of each of 1st Corinthians characteristics, with each and all the past ethical values that we have already described in this saga:
The poverty of Spirit or Humbleness: “Love does not boast, it is not proud”. “Love is not self-seeking”.
Mourning: “Love does not envy”.
Meekness: “Love is not easily angered”, “Love is kind”, “Love is not rude”.
Hunger and Thirst after Righteousness: “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth”.
Mercy: “Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres”
Courage under Suffering: “Love is patient”. “Love rejoices with the truth”.
Purity of Heart: “Love never fails”:
So I won´t be repetitive. We will only show the latter discovery: There is a match between 1st Corinthians 13 love characteristics and the virtues that we have already covered. This fact lands us in the following question: If the characteristics of love are humbleness, mourning, meekness, mercy, hunger, and thirst after righteousness, mercy, courage under persecution, and purity of heart; then what is love?
How does love happen? True love is reflected in the metaphor of “sous-vide cooking”: It is not automatic, it arises as when we cook au “sous-vide” by keeping the temperature low to produce “excellent results”, or as Max Lucado wrote it in his book, loves comes out with “the flame low”. In addition, loves happens in the brain. As Helen Fisher describes it “Love is a fundamental human drive. Like craving for food and water and the maternal instinct, it is a physiological need, a profound urge”. When it comes to romantic love, Fisher adds: “It is an instinct to court and win a particular mating partner”.
If love is a fundamental human drive, how can we see it? Human Love is expressed in thoughts, emotions, intentions, feelings, and ultimately, actions. Human actions of love have been kept and recorded for centuries in artistic expressions as books, theatre plays, cinema movies, music, sculptures, paintings, dances, embroideries, fashion designs, architectural oeuvres, festivals, myths, legends, spectacular food dishes, cooperation assistance aid programs to the poor. Believe it or not, love can also be manifested in each and all of our businesses and economic endeavors.
Why do we love? Doctor Helen Fisher investigated the brain reactions when it comes to romantic love. She used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to try to record the brain activity of men and women who had just fallen madly in love. Even though Fisher’s book “Why we love”, is about the most basic type of love: the romantic relationship level; Fisher and a group of researchers scanned the brains of men and women who were wildly in love and they collected the information during a period of 6 years. By observing the brain activity from each of the researched individuals, Fisher´s team discovered:
- Brains in love respond differently according to the gender: Men respond so passionately to visual stimuli, meanwhile women can remember details of the relationship.
- Brains in love change over time: Brains regions become more active when you feel romantic ecstasy at the beginning of the relationship, than later on when the relationship has settled after some years.
- Brains who do not hold reciprocated love (meaning that have been rejected by someone they adored) show a different brain activity, and if some of these brains are able to react with revenge, to unlimited crimes of passion; this brain activity can be observed in the fMRI pictures of those individuals.
Ms. Fisher research was only focused on romantic love, and this is just the most basic level of love. As we already explained in “Purity of heart” previous chapters, let´s not forget that love is also expressed (without sex) at a fraternal and community levels. Nevertheless, Ms. Fisher book was so revealing, because she opened a door to all of us, when it comes to understand the meaning of love by using fMRI scanned in our brains. Her book revealed that our brains act differently when we are in love.
If we love with our brains, then let´s understand what makes our brains to love. In my last episode I wrote that the secret to love is living loved. But, if we don´t have anyone on earth who love us, how can we love fully? If we don´t have a partner, or kids or a nuclear family to love, how can we love others and ourselves? Only because of the existence of God. That spiritual energy that ignites our brains to love others and ourselves, only comes from the creator of the Universe. It only comes from God. To learn to experience love´s God takes years. Of course we see it in everything God has created, but we learn to love only by living love with others, and that is how we learn to discern it, to make it happen. The love of God is felt in our brains in a “sous-vide” process. Slower and kindly. It takes years (maybe 2 or 3 decades) to fully understand and feel the love of God in our brains. Even for those human beings who are religiously committed to open to comprehend and feel the love of God, it is very difficult for them to define how they learned to love God. Pastors, ministers, priests, and many devoted religious practitioners spend all their lives trying to practice the journey of “living loved by God”. And, even for those who by choice decided to opt for a religious “life-style”, they still have troubles to live loved by God. Why?
Then it is time to ask ourselves, how can we, the mundane average of us, live loved by God in the middle of so much noise, in the middle of our mortal daily activities and in the middle of the fact that we are more worried to find sources of income to survive? How can we live loved by God when we have been experienced lack of boundary injuries during childhood and adolescence? How can we live loved by God when we see so much pain, wars, pandemics, injustice and unparalleled despair in the world? We all have experienced harm and despair (whether self-induced or by others-induced). So how can we live loved by God in such context?
The very nature of God in us is to be in relationships. The only way we discover what is to live loved by God is by repairing the past hurt in our present, and ensuring that we are able to build healthy boundaries, to receive today and tomorrow, the love of God in its full expression. Yes, we learn to love only by practicing it on a “sous-vide” process. Yes, beautiful audience, we learn to love, by bonding with others, making mistakes and learning to set up boundaries with them. “You cant develop or set boundaries apart from an active quest for relationships, a bond with God and supportive relationships with others”. Our deepest need is to belong, to be in an earthly loving relationship, to have a spiritual and emotional home with God. “God is love”, and if learning to love means a relationship between us and God and other humans, then that is how we begin to learn to love. If we are committed to search God, that is how we learn to live loved by God. When we lack of a personal relationship with God, then we are unable to love fully. Without the love of God, we are merely “mediocre lovers driven by anything else such as lust, self-seeking, pride or any other anti-virtue”.
What is love? Our answer is simple. Love is God.
On my next publication we will dedicate some words to sail beyond 1st Corinthians 13. I will try to explain how can we be open to live loved by God by helping our brains to practice it in the two crucial dimensions of our existence: (1) Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And (2) love others as yourself.
Until next Friday, thank you and thank you for reading to me.
Sources of reference cited in this article
Disclaimer: Illustrations in Watercolor are painted by Eleonora Escalante. Other types of illustrations or videos (which are not mine) are used for educational purposes ONLY. Nevertheless, the majority of the pictures, images, or videos shown on this blog are not mine. I do not own any of the lovely photos or images posted unless otherwise stated.
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