Several weeks ago my metaphorical light bulb came on regarding love. It sounds kind of funny and even silly to say, but for the first time in 26 years my brain really connected the phrase with its deeper meaning; unconditional love. I honestly do not remember what triggered it and the more I think back on it, the fuzzier it is. It might have been a book I was reading, or it may have been in my Dave Ramsey class - maybe it was in my Dave Ramsey book, I do not remember! - but it hit me. Somehow I am thinking it was actually a Bible lesson though that was talking about John and Peter in John 20. Regardless, the start of it was along the lines of God not loving anyone more or less based on one's action or inaction. Again, it sounds elementary but something in my brain seriously clicked. "Unconditional love" was the pat phrase that came to mind but I instantly connected to something deeper that helped me to realize what that means; a love with no degrees!
As a child in a fractured world, human love is always given in degrees. "I love you more" type of sentiments seem to dominate. While the closest love that is often compared to God's love toward us is that of a parent even that is faulty and human. The interesting thing though is that even when parents do things lovingly, the darkened mind of a broken child distorts that love and sees it in degrees. For years I did this with my own parents.
Looking back I recognize the immaturity and petulance of my foolish heart but I misunderstood my parents' love and actions as both void of degree and yet full. Since this was the view of my parents' love, how could I have expected anything less from the God I had never seen? Yes, I knew "unconditional love" but only with my head knowledge. When asked to quote a verse or answer a question based on God's love, I know it is "unconditional". Yet, by experience of it, somehow it never really impacted me as it did several weeks back. It was like the time when I discovered another meaning behind a term I knew well and used properly; "A.K.A.". When I was a kid, I knew what a.k.a. meant and I could use it properly but it was not until my mid to late teenage years when I finally realized why a.k.a. was used in place of also known as. You see, sometimes I am pretty slow and I just accept what I have been taught without really digging more deeply, because no one has challenged what I know. However, now I proudly know that a.k.a. stands for "also known as" because of the letters each word begins with. Well done, Hannah.
In the same conceptual idea, I now understand the tired clichè of "unconditional love" because it has been revealed to me in a new way. No one demonstrated it to me differently. I did not go through some drastic event to highlight it anew, it simply was illuminated from a new angle in my mind by the Spirit's light. Unconditional love means there are no conditions on it (that much I knew) but what is deeper and more full - deepening my understanding now - is that unconditional love is intense and fierce and it has NO DEGREE! God has no favorites and I know that is true. Even though Moses is selected and God meets with him differently than the Israelites; even though there are countless mentions of people favored by God; even though David is a man after God's own heart; even though John was "the disciple whom Jesus loved", THERE IS NO DEGREE. God loves equally as deep the wretched fool and wicked man as He does the deepest student of the Word. Brennan Manning has introduced me to this brilliant and wonderful new fact as well, God loves me the same as He loves Jesus! He doesn't love Jesus more than He loves me and He doesn't love me more than He loves Jesus. Isn't that just grand?!
The challenge accompanying that is that as a child of God, I am called to love unconditionally - WITH NO DEGREE. Yes, I will be drawn in different ways to different people. I relate more deeply and closely to my family and friends than to a stranger off the street, but that does not mean I love those familiar people more. It simply means I like them more and that I love them differently. So, how am I sharing the love God has always demonstrated to me to others?
A simple lesson, yes. A silly lesson - it may seem - to be learned at 26 rather than 6 (particularly for someone that has been saved as long as I have) BUT that is the wonder and mystery and joy of God! There is no "right" or "wrong" standard in learning. Each person learns in his own way and order and it just happened to take me 26 years to really understand the depth (or at least the start of the depth) of His love of no degrees!