Did you ever try to “define” love? I don’t even mean the 15-or-so definitions that Webster’s gives; I mean understanding how loving relationships work. I’m personally convinced that humans are capable of functioning on three levels–physical, mental, and spiritual–and of course our expression of love may have attributes from all three levels. Much of the reason our relationships falter is because, although we get the physical and mental part, we ignore the spiritual component. I may give you a hug, and choose you as a friend, but what you really want is a relationship that goes beyond what I might think or do. How many times Jesus stretched our concept of love, by asking us to love the unlovable, to love in ways we had not imagined, to love as he does.
Brennan Manning tells the story of an Irish priest who, on a walking tour of a rural parish, sees an old peasant kneeling by the side of the road, praying. Impressed, the priest says to the man, “You must be very close to God.” The peasant looks up from his prayers, thinks a moment, and then smiles, “Yes, he’s very fond of me.”
I like that story so much (and have repeated it often) because it reminds me of the nature of God’s love for us. Think about it. It’s obviously not based on looks, or performance. Not even faithfulness or worthiness. He chooses to love us fully, and without reservation–he’s even willing to lay down his life for us–all because he considers each of us lovable. He’s very fond of you.
So when I tell you that I love you, or give you a hug when we meet, or even when I type a ♥ in your facebook status, there’s a very strong possibility that I’m remembering that God is fond of you, and that I’m very fond of you too, and that our relationship has that spiritual component modeled after the One who loves us and gives us his Spirit. It might even come with a prayer, because that always seems appropriate to me.
Oh, and by the way … “I love you!”