The difference between knowing and loving

Do you just know about God or do you actually love God? Father Vu presented us this question at Mass this week and let us sit in silence to ponder. I was immediately uncertain. What is the difference between knowing and loving God, or others in our life for that matter?

I thought about my relationship with God, my husband, family, and close friends. For me the difference came down to action. I know many people, but those I know love me and I know feel loved by me are more intentional and active relationships. We invest time and energy in each other. We listen to each other, send notes, share our dreams, explore and learn together, serve each other in times of need, and spend time having fun. For each other we are patient, kind, considerate, faithful and true. We hold each other in high regard and honor. When we make mistakes we speak up and work together to repair the damage…and we forgive. No matter who made the mistake, how many times, or who takes the first step to fix it, we forgive. Loving takes work and it takes time.

I have been known to love selfishly and have used love as a weapon. Giving it and depriving of it to get what I want. I used to think love had to be earned. If you love me, then I will love you back. An egotistical kind of love. A very conditional kind of love.

Many of us love this way…”because of.” Because they love us. Because they make us better or happier. Because they are family. Because we want something from them.

What if we loved each other “in spite of,” like God loves us? When love is missing, when mistakes are made, when we don’t understand each other, when life is hard. We love in spite of it. We love anyway. No blame, no shame, just love. Unconditional love.

Mitch and I recently took our marriage covenant in the Catholic Church. We were legally married in September of 2016. That was a contract we entered into under the law. It was a conditional commitment between Mitch and I that can be broken if one individual doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain. The covenant we took this month in the Church is an unconditional commitment to uphold what is best for us as a couple with God as our guide. Even when things are not equal, we will love each other and lean on God to help us do what is best for our family.

This kind of love, unconditional love, can be scary. I can’t control it and I have promised to love no matter what happens. On the flip side, it’s also humbling and comforting to think that Mitch also committed to love no matter what happens.

It’s easy for us now because our relationship is stable and life is good. It’s easier to trust that he will love me. On the other end of the spectrum, I have my dad. We have struggled my entire life with abuse, manipulation, and pain. We have hurt each other deeply. There is no trust. On my worst days, I feel anger, doubt, and even hate…but I have the choice to love him anyway. I pray for him and for me. That we will find peace. That we feel God’s love. Love is a choice.

Now back to God. People ask how I can believe and love God without ever having seen Him. My answer is always the same. Because I feel Him in my heart. I see signs all around me that He is with me. I have faith and I believe.

My dad has not given me reason to believe he loves me. Some would argue he has given me many reasons not to love him. But I have faith and I believe that he is good and worthy of love. I choose to love him. Sometimes it is the same with God. We have not seen him. We do not understand his ways. But we have a sense in the depths of our being. We have faith and we believe. Because of that, we invest time and energy to know and love Him in spite of all the reasons the world tells us not to.

There may be a thousand reasons not to love others or not to love God, but there are ten thousand reasons we should.

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