"You'll get there," says my Spiritual Director, "but it's going to take time. It's a life-long process."
I listen with an internal sigh.
Time. Patience. Not my strong suits.
"Love one another." I get that part of today's Gospel. But lately I'm stuck lately on the ". . . as I love you" part. The deeper and surer I grow in my faith, the more I feel that my heart's understanding of God's love for me barely scratches the surface.
Of course, I have plenty of head knowledge. But my heart still flounders as I read the words of Saints positively brimming with God's love, living in its assurance with unshakable confidence. And I wonder, what does that feel like? I want to know it personally. I want to know how—now. Can I ever open my heart enough to both give and receive Eternal Love with that bold confidence?
Knowing the time it will take me to learn, knowing that I need spiritual baby food for a long while, God answers me with just a tidbit from this very same Gospel.
Learn Love, child, by imitating my Son's loving actions.
In imitating Christ, our hearts learn Love that can't be taught in words. Jesus died to Himself—literally. He called us friends, not slaves. Love is teaching with charity. Dying to self. Graciously accepting another's expression of love. Stretching past our comfort zone to serve others.
It's meeting someone begging in their need, someone who has literally nothing to give you in return. And as you stop to offer food or sustenance wrapped in tentative love, as your hands briefly touch and your eyes meet, you're overwhelmed by the ache of true Love in your heart. And you realize that instead of nothing, this soul has given you a glimpse of Heaven.
This I hold close, even as I remain frustrated by the snail-like pace of my progress, by all the still-hardened patches of my heart. To love others as He loves me means to discover His love through actively working to love others. A paradox, yes. But a beautiful one, in which I suddenly comprehend that I am the needy one, begging for soul food as my Savior passes by.
He reaches out, and our hands meet, and our eyes meet; I drink in the Love which He gives freely for the sake of my destitute soul, knowing that I can give Him literally nothing in return.
Do you struggle to give or receive Love on this path of growing in holiness? Choose one simple way to imitate Christ's actions and open your heart to the Love God desires to give you in return.
Megan Hjelmstad is a wife, mom, writer and sometimes soldier whose real passion is equal parts faith and chocolate. You can find out more about her here.