The Beatles were right, all we need is love. As the father of nine children, one of my biggest concerns is ensuring that my children receive a solid foundation rooted in our Catholic faith. In my experience, achieving this end is a delicate balance of clear boundaries coupled with love. As St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13, we can do all the right things as parents, have the most efficiently run home on the block, provide our kids the best education, use the right form of discipline every time, always have the right words to say to soothe a broken heart or a scraped knee, but if we do not have love, then we are a noisy gong (and we will not achieve our desired goal).
A Lesson in the Importance of Love
A few years back one of my daughters was participating in a sport and was not giving it her best effort. For many children this may not be a big issue, but for her I saw this situation as a perfect opportunity to teach her an important lesson about the importance of perseverance in the difficulties that we encounter in our lives. For her, most things come easy and when she encounters something that is difficult, she is tempted to give up rather than persevere.
In my endeavor to teach her a lesson in the virtue of fortitude, she questioned my love for her. When she believed that my love for her was conditional based upon her success in that particular sport, she effectively ceased to listen to what I had to say. She even got really mad at me and refused to speak with me for a couple of days. Instead of trying to prove my point about the virtue of fortitude, I decided to tell her that no matter how mad she was at me, there was nothing she could do to cause me to stop loving her, it didn’t matter if she was successful and I would still love her even if she didn’t love me. She thought about that for a little while and when the anger subsided, we were able to talk about the situation and the motivation behind my actions. No matter how right we may think we are in an argument, if the other person does not believe that we have their best interest at heart (otherwise known as loving them), we risk being a clashing cymbal or a banging gong and the message we are trying to convey could be lost.
The love of God is much more than many of us have experienced in our earthly relationships. His love is patient and kind, it is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude, it does not insist on its own way, it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things and His love for us will never end. As a father, I can tell you that I fall short of demonstrating God’s love within my family on a regular basis, but I get back up and try again each time. A quick search of the Internet will show a plethora of articles citing the reality that the way our earthly father shows us love has a major influence on our perception of God’s love.
The Love of God
We have all been told that God loves us since we were young, and thus there is a temptation to believe that we know that and thus don’t need to meditate upon it again, however I don’t think we will ever truly know the depths of that Love until we, God willing, meet our creator in Heaven. His love is not conditional, He does not love us because we obtain some great achievement, He does not love us because we are beautiful, He does not love us because we love him, He loves us because of who we are and by the mere fact that He is our Father. There is nothing we need to do to earn his love. He only desires us to love him back, but even if we completely reject him and mock him and offend him, He will never stop loving us, in fact He will pursue us even more to save us from ourselves. The more we run away from his love and reject him, the more He will do to draw us back to himself.
God’s love may seem irrational and foreign to many of us, but that may be due to our lack of experience with it. Through prayer, frequent reception of the sacraments, and reading scripture, we can come to a better understanding of God’s love and thus be able to love our children as God loves us. “So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13:13)