Not too long ago, when I was telling my troubles to Fr. W. Goh, I had said, “I truly want to love God. I have always asked God to help me love Him more.” He smiled at me and replied, “That’s not the problem. You don’t need to ask Him that. You already love God. What you need to do is to let God love you.”
His reply took me by surprise. Let God love me? Was it something I had to actively do? In the Bible we see many commandments for us to love God and neighbour. But I did not remember being asked to LET God love me. I know the Bible tells me that God loves me – it seems to be a fact that is taken for granted. But was there something I had to do?
I have realized since that interview more than 2 months ago how wise and true Fr. Goh’s statement had been. In my entire life, I had been willing myself to love – to love God, to love my parents, my family, my friends… why? Because I have been commanded to do so! Because it is the right thing to do. After all, did not Jesus say to ‘turn the other cheek’? Did my Lord not say to love my neighbour as myself, to love God with all my heart and strength and might?
I would try with all my strength to love, and to forgive those who hurt me. It was such a struggle sometimes. Bruised and battered, I would still put all my strength and will into loving. After 30 years, I finally understand why, with all my best intentions, I fall so far short of loving others unconditionally, and why trying to love others was a tiring thing for me.
St. John said it in one short sentence: We love because [God] first loved us (1 John 4:19). God is love, and all love comes from God. Where would we have love to give unless we first allowed ourselves to receive love from God?
Indeed, the law and commandments can only tell us what is right or wrong. But the law cannot give us the strength or the ability to do what is right (Gal 3:21)! In fact, enslavement to the law brings spiritual and emotional death. Think about it: those who fail to keep the law are judged and condemned; even if they are ‘forgiven’, it is with a deep sense of unworthiness and indebtedness. Those who succeed in keeping the law almost always become proud and self-righteous. Either way, there is no love, and therefore, no life.
The only way we can have true love to give is to first be loved ourselves. If we have to depend on our fellow human beings to fill us up with love, we would never experience true unconditional love because that would be like begging from another beggar. The only unfailing source of life-giving love is God.
It is one thing to KNOW that God loves you unconditionally. It is another thing completely to truly experience first hand the height and depth of God’s love for you. Interestingly enough, it was when I finally acknowledged how lost, clueless and wrong I had been that I opened my heart to the love and forgiveness of my Father who had been loving me deeply all along, even when I was still lost.
Now I soak up His love, and it is God who empowers me to love Him in return, and to love my brothers and sisters as He had loved me.