I have had many conversations about how do I choose who to love. If I claim to love God, would I choose God over my children or my spouse? I have had conversations about the use of the word “love.” I know of people that dislike it when people say they love chocolate or football, because it demeans the love of God or family. In a recent conversation with a friend about the nature of my love for God and God’s love for me, the question came up again “Whom do you love most?”
I realized the error we, as mortal beings, possess when it comes to the concept of love. We see love as a thing and perceive it as a hierarchy, when, in fact, it is not. We are not born with a an allocation of “love chits,” that we give or trade away with others. We are not given a tank of love that is diminished and replenished as it is consumed. Love is not a light switch that we turn on or off. Love is an energy, a constantly present element in our lives – it just comes in different types of love, different intensities.
I came up with a metaphor to explain the idea of it. We know that “God is love” through scripture, but what does it mean? God possesses all the types of love. God is both the source and the conduit. There is no hierarchy, there is just different manifestations of love. The metaphor I came up with is that love is much like water, but on an eternal scale.
God’s love is the general, all encompassing love that entails the full set of types of love, much like how we refer to “water” in this world. When we speak to each other about water, we do not use a hierarchy of which water is more important, because we already accept that there are different types of water for different situations. If I ask you if you have had a glass of water today, not only did I imply “did you have a glass of potable, clean water that benefits your body for hydration,” but you also accepted the implication that this is the type of water to which I was referring. You wouldn’t look at me aghast and assume I was implying drinking stagnant pond water or sea water.
Just like love, water has an all encompassing general application to our lives. We can refer to the existence of water without having to list all of the different types, locations, and uses of water. If I ask you if you like water, that question is too broad, and you would ask for more clarity: “What kind of water?” We would accept that there is a confusion in that question because we already accept that water is more than just the concept of water, but we can also talk about all of water when we discuss water on this planet.
I like sea water, but not to drink. I like bottled water, but not to swim in. I’ll take a shower in tap water, but not mineral water. Mineral water is not as appropriate for intravenous use as saline – salt water – is for our bodies. But, if I were to be in a conversation, and someone asked me “Which of these waters do you prefer?” or “If you had to choose one water over the other, which would you choose?” or, even more accurately, “How can you choose all of the water on the planet over bottled water?” I would find these questions unreasonable, even nonsensical. Especially the last one.
When referring to God’s love, we are engaging in the same conversation as referring to all of the water on this planet. The earth is capable of holding all of earth’s water, just as God is capable of being all love. My love for my children, my love of a future spouse, my love of chocolate are all valid loves, and none of which need to be a hierarchy. I can love my children and love chocolate, there is no contradiction here, it is simply a different type of love. If I had to choose which I loved more, I am not making a choice between loves, I am making a choice of what is most important to me, what my preference is. I can live without chocolate, but it is much harder to live without my children. Just as I can live without bottled water, because I can live on tap water. I just prefer bottled water.
When I say I love my God, it is not to the exclusion of my children, my spouse, or of chocolate. It is participating in the sharing of a love I am incapable of fully possessing myself. Just as I could not possibly hold all of earth’s water within me, because I am not the earth, I am incapable of possessing the extent of God’s love, because I am not a god. Instead, I have access to enjoy all of the water my mortal being is capable of enjoying. So, too, I have access to enjoy all of the love my mortal being is capable of expressing.
I know that my Father in Heaven loves me by the fact that as I pursue my relationship with Him, my capacity for love is increased. I have access to the one power that drives the universe, but it only comes from not seeking power, but seeking peace and love. Like water, we need it to survive and be our best selves. Unlike water, there is no physical limit to what we can participate in. We should treat love like water: share it, give it, and receive what is given to us as the precious resource it is.