What does it mean to truly love another? Does love include overlooking someone’s faults or pretending bad things aren’t happening just to keep the peace?
In confronting these questions myself, I’ve been led to ask, Do I possess a truly deep love? If so, do I know how to share this love with others?
Christ Jesus taught and proved, and the Bible clearly states, that God is Love. If God is Love, then real love is of God, and any expression of genuine love in our lives must come from that divine source. God’s grace enables us to express compassion and forgiveness toward others. Can every single individual access and express this kind of love? Yes. I was able to arrive at that answer through the study and practice of Christian Science.
The Bible makes the case for why we can love. “We are of God,” asserts First John, adding, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.… God is love” (4:6–8). To love is to be what we are, “born of God”—to express our true, spiritual identity as God’s child, which includes every quality of divine Love. So we all naturally have the ability to love.
The reality that each one of us is the beloved child, or spiritual expression, of our Father-Mother, Love, is made clear right in the beginning of the Bible, in the first chapter of Genesis, which states that God—who is Spirit and is all good—made us in His image and likeness, and that we are very good.
But the second and later chapters of Genesis represent man as the exact opposite of the perfect, spiritual image and likeness of God. Adam and Eve are material and not spiritual, and they quickly sin against God, embracing both good and evil. Love is overshadowed in the narrative by fear, frustration, and lack. And both good and evil become the general story about humanity.
To love is to be what we are, “born of God”—to express our true, spiritual identity as God’s child.
Eventually, however, Christ Jesus proved that everyone actually is purely good and has an inseparable relation to God, with the ability to express the purity of God’s love. He showed our pure, spiritual identity as God’s reflection to be intact by restoring health, holiness, and mental soundness for countless people.
Even now, the ever-present Christ, the divine idea of God, which Jesus expressed in his ministry, is at work, coming to the human consciousness to heal disease and restore harmony, including in our human relationships. This healing happens as we become receptive to the powerful, transforming presence of divine Love and are willing to drop anger, regret, and emotional pain.
I learned this by experience.
As a child, I felt alienated from my family. The fighting between my divorced mother and her parents, with whom I lived, was bitter and incomprehensible to me. At age seven, I was sent to live with my father and his new wife in a distant city. But I had a tenuous relationship with my father, which went from bad to worse in my teen years. And the feelings of alienation continued, because in my annual visits to my mother it was clear she was slipping into mental illness. As the years passed, I had less and less contact with her.
A number of years later, now an adult, I received a phone call informing me that my mom had been hospitalized for several serious medical issues. She had also lost the ability to live independently. I arranged residence for her in a nursing home near the town where my brother and I lived, and then I flew across the country to check her out of the hospital. My mom was not a student of Christian Science, but I was actively practicing Christian Science at this point.
When I arrived at the hospital, the kind doctor explained that my mom was exhibiting the mentality of a six-year-old and would steadily regress. I prayed, knowing that if it was God’s unfolding plan for her to come with me, then it was already complete and couldn’t be stopped. I was able to check her out of the hospital, but the flight home wasn’t easy. Unable to sit up, when she wasn’t acting out she slept across three seats with her head in my lap.
As my mom slept, I began to think about my unresolved relationship with her and the fact that I’d spent a lifetime dodging family confrontations and wallowing in self-pity. Decades had passed, yet I was still burdened by lingering thought-pictures of domestic chaos. I prayed with all my heart, asking for a comforting message from my one true Parent, my Father-Mother God.
As God’s child, I needed to love, plain and simple.
Inspiring ideas came immediately. I realized that personal willpower—forcing myself to be resilient in trying to outgrow the abuse—was ultimately inadequate to surmount my painful past. It dawned on me that I needed God’s love in order to be able to truly forgive. As God’s child, I needed to love, plain and simple. But how?
As I leaned back in the seat, the prayer came to me, “Dear God, teach me to love.” At that moment, I felt all resistance fading as God’s love for everyone blossomed in me. God’s grace overcame me as I opened my heart to receive it. I found myself eager to let go of the confusing past. I felt for the first time God giving me genuine love for my mom and every other family member. Forgiveness flooded my thoughts, and I wept with relief.
It wasn’t long before I heard a cheerful voice: “I’m so glad to be moving closer to you and your brother!”
I was momentarily dumbfounded. “Mom?”
God’s love had washed us both clean. From that point on, my mother was loving, buoyant, and enthusiastic. Her behavior was totally contrary to the doctor’s predicted mental regression. Weekend visits with her were enjoyable, and she expressed kindness and gratitude during the remaining year of her life.
Since that time, I have treasured this truth shared in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy: “The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God,—a spiritual understanding of Him, an unselfed love” (p. 1).
That prayer on the plane, “Teach me to love,” meant unselfed love, which included letting go of self-absorption and self-pity. Mom and I were both blessed by that prayer. I felt that my mom finally discovered the God-inspired joy of life, and I finally got my mom back. In fact, for the first time, I found all my lifelong wishes for mothering fulfilled.
Truly, God is Love, and we individually and collectively express this Love. “Teach me to love” was the perfect prayer for me then, and continues to be today. For as I discovered, it isn’t just a want that brings forth healing—it’s a yielding to God, making way for Love’s answer. For me, that answer included not just redemption for my mom and me, but a lasting sense of what real, healing love is and how we can all live it.
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