It is human nature to seek and give love. This is a trait that is inherent in a newborn baby, perhaps even before it enters the light of the birth room. It is the balm that comforts, enriches and nourishes. The effect of receiving or not receiving love at the beginning of life can have a mighty effect on the future life and conduct of the child.
An individual will emphatically proclaim that they seek love and want to love - an ideal manufactured in the mind that would provide them with eternal bliss. They seek, but sometimes in the wrong places. They give, but sometimes later regret. They find but, perhaps, reject because they are sure that the ideal is just around the corner. Sometimes, in moments of joyous enlightenment, it is discovered to have been with us all the time!
True Love is a state of the soul. It is not only a word or an act in the material world. It is the attitude of the mind. The receiving of love is a treasure beyond compare - the giving of love does not expect anything in return. It is not a tool to offer a bribe. For one who expects a favor in return, it can be easy to say with apparent sincerity, "I love you." For one to say, "I love you" (no strings attached), is comparable with the utter submission of self on behalf of another. This is demonstrated when a child will leap from a high place into the arms of a parent; having full confidence it is safe to do so. It is displayed when an animal (tame or otherwise) will lie on its back with the most vulnerable part of its body, the stomach, exposed. Indeed, love exists in all of nature - it was formed from Love.
If love is such a natural thing (should I say "supernatural" thing?), then why is it so misused, abused, feared, rejected or perhaps even considered to be an item of shame? Why should a lad, who has always expressed love by giving the mother AND father a hug and kiss, suddenly at some point become "too old" to offer that same love token to the father; or the father to the son? We naturally want to love and to be loved, yet we fear its expression. It is akin to the old story of the man who stood beating his head against the wall. A person who was passing by exclaimed, "Why, in heaven's name, are you doing that?" The man replied, "Because it feels so good when I stop."
True Love can be expressed in materiality in a variety of ways. A simple smile says something! An embrace, a kiss or a hand on the shoulder can produce a feeling of contentment. A bouquet of flowers, a special dinner or a trip together can produce lasting memories. Yes, if performed with that intent, even the sexual act can be an expression of love between two who have established a permanent family relationship. If it is only for self gratification, it is not True Love. Certainly, rape or deception is not love.
This is what St. Paul has to say about love:
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. (1 Cor. 13:4-8)
Notice that he speaks of that which are internal attitudes and spirit. He does not speak of jewels, flowers, automobiles, food, liquor, sex or other things of Caesar's world that might be physical expressions of love.
Love is a commandment. Jesus was very specific in his words:
.."You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments." (Mat. 22:37-40)
Divine Love is to be universal, even for those who hate you and seek to do harm to you. Certainly, each person has those whom they are more closely tied. Jesus was no exception:
So the sisters (Mary and Martha) sent word to him, saying, "Master, the one you love (Lazarus) is ill." When Jesus heard this he said, "This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it." Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. (John 11:3-5)
And the Gospel of John speaks several times about the disciple whom Jesus loved, which many believe to have been John.
He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, "Do you love me?" and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." (Jesus) said to him, "Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, "Follow me."
Peter turned and saw the disciple following whom Jesus loved, the one who had also reclined upon his chest during the supper and had said, "Master, who is the one who will betray you?" When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, "Lord, what about him?" Jesus said to him, "What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours? You follow me."
So the word spread among the brothers that that disciple would not die. But Jesus had not told him that he would not die, just "What if I want him to remain until I come? (What concern is it of yours?)" It is this disciple who testifies to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. (John 21:17-24)
In my own experience, I have learned many lessons. I have always known love and I have always loved. It has been said that "love is a two way street." In a sense, that is true - especially in family relationships. However, for each individual it is something that must be experienced alone because it is part of self. To grow in Spirit and in Truth will also produce growth in Love. What once was a yearning for an ideal object of love becomes an awareness of the Divine Love that has been with you all the time.
Individual love becomes universal love in the purest sense. One no longer feels embarrassed or fearful to tell an absolute stranger, face to face, that you love them. Maybe it is even one you know wishes you harm. All the while, there are those that hold a special place in your heart in varying degrees. There is no fear in Love. It's OK to say, "I love you" and mean it. To do so is not an invitation to a bed. If you are attached to materiality or addictions, you are less apt to recognize and acknowledge that which is unseen.
Loving God makes loving easy. Go ahead, call someone "dear" and sign your letters with another four-letter word, LOVE. You'll be surprised how good it makes you feel.