Christmas is a celebration of God’s love: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” Just in time for Christmas I finished writing “A Love Affair with God: Twelve Traits.” Although one publisher considered the book “too romantic,” I was guided by St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, who did not shy from describing God’s love for us in words of deep intimacy. Then, too, G.K. Chesterton said, “Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.” I will see my first copy of the book on January 2. But as a Christmas gift to you, here is its Introduction. I plan to present the first chapter or part of it next week.
Nothing is more practical than finding God,
i.e., falling in love in a quite absolute final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed
in the morning;
what you will do with your evenings;
how you will spend your weekends;
what you will read; who you will know;
what breaks your heart
and amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love. Stay in love,
and it will decide everything.
~ Pedro Arrupe, SJ
The almighty Creator of the universe chose to create you instead of countless other possibilities. You were deliberately and specifically called into being, not the result of a random lottery. Furthermore, God loves you with a love that is unconditional, constant, and endless. The good God loved you before you existed, loved you when you were a mewling infant, and will love you throughout your earthly life until you draw your last breath. God will love you beyond this world—after you have slipped into the next mysterious realm. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, God loves you today on earth just as ardently as he will love you in heaven. Writer G. K. Chesterton coined the curious phrase “the furious love of God,” attempting to capture in words the strong, relentless love God feels for you. At the same time this divine love is also warm and infinitely tender.
God longs for you to reciprocate his love. Right now, this very instant, your divine Lover summons you to intimacy with him. What’s more astonishing is that every day he woos you in diverse ways designed to capture your heart, as A Love Affair with God: Twelve Traits demonstrates conclusively.
How can you know positively that God loves not only the world but you personally? As a Christian, you trust a religion that is able to claim a two-thousand-year-old tradition. Well, a cornerstone of this Christian faith is that you are made by Love (God) for love. You also accept your religion’s Sacred Scripture as divine revelation, that is, a means by which God “unveils” himself. In the Bible God professes his love for you repeatedly in black and white—unequivocally. Your Maker is not a shy lover.
Love at the Heart of It All
Acknowledging a universal truth, Bruce Springsteen sang, “Everybody’s got a hungry heart.” We human beings are designed to fall in love with each other. Far surpassing that, we were created to be involved in the greatest love affair of all: one with God. No one but your Creator will ever be your perfect soulmate. As long as you cooperate with the supernatural grace at work in you, your biography will read like a beautiful love story. After recounting your life—including its ecstatic highs and frustrating lows—it will end “and they lived happily ever after.”
According to the book of Genesis, you were made in the image and likeness of God. Because God is pure love, it follows that you too are capable of radiating love. Human love, in whatever form it takes, is an echo of divine love.
People who are in love with another human being display certain characteristics. For example, they glow with happiness. They also act in certain predictable ways. Some of these love indicators also hold true for the partners in a divine love relationship—for both God and you. You will find twelve of them discussed in chapters 2 to 13 of this book.
Each of these twelve chapters comprises three sections. It opens with a description of one sign (or symptom!) of being in love with a human being. Then there is an exploration of how God manifests this characteristic because he deeply loves you. This is followed by ways you exhibit this trait when you are in love with God. (This latter section serves as a rich wellspring of ideas for demonstrating your love for God.) Each of the last two sections concludes with a few questions to spark further reflection on the topic.
Shakespeare’s play Midsummer’s Night Dream features a magic love potion that when applied to a sleeping person’s eyes causes the victim to fall in love with the first living thing perceived on awaking. My hope is that A Love Affair with God: Twelve Traits, though not magical, has power to open your eyes and deepen your love for God, who loves you without bounds and will never break your heart.
• How do YOU know God loves you?