(If you haven't looked at last week's post - where this part of the Grace Habit conversation started - it might be helpful for you to check it out here. )
There are few things better than being able to relax in the knowledge that someone you love also loves you. Love is surely the glue that holds the most significant relationships of our lives together. And who wouldn't love to be able to relax in such knowledge every day? Lately it seems that despite this common awareness - the academics in the psychology departments and sociology departments of the world's institutions of higher learning keep churning out study after study demonstrating the power of love to keep us healthy physically and mentally - and that the impact of love - the more we're aware of it - seems to spread out over ever widening circles into more and more areas of our lives ... love makes us more resilient, more tenacious, more amicable, more successful ... and less susceptible to pain, illness, tragedy and loss. This isn't just regarding romantic love (though that's of course powerful) - love in general has this potent effect. I've linked to some top-notch studies below - but there are literally hundreds of studies that look at the benefits of love.
Love motivates - like nothing else. For the sake of love - King Edward VIII abdicated his throne. Mother's love of children is the stuff of countless movies, stories, fairy-tales - which of us can forget Bambi and his mother? It's the stuff of pop music chart toppers
Love embeds in our memories like few things - and in an age of multi-media when we can capture almost any moment in dozens of different ways - love still commands center stage. It's because of love that couples spend an average of $30k on their weddings - it's because of love that parents spend an average of $250k raising their child. And who hasn't watched at least one of their sibling, cousin or friend - completely morph from unfocused goof to unstoppable responsible adult - because they fell in love and started a family.
And let's not forget the powerful contribution loving friendships bring to our lives. From Mayo clinic to numerous academic institutions - again - we see study after study coming out with finding after finding about the power of love in this form as well to enrich our lives. This is so powerful - that the quality of your friendships can predict how long you'll live. Who doesn't remember these?
There are hundreds more.
If love is so meaningful to us. And if love is what motivated God to create humanity in the first place - and and moved Him save us over and over again until finally He gave His Son up to redeem us - and if love is what leads us to become more like Him and teaches us to abide in Him - how is it that we aren't off-the-charts dedicated to tapping into this incredible force in our walks with Him? Could anything else contribute more powerfully to our lives? I've been mulling this over for three years now and I have yet to come up with a single downside that could result from authentically encountering God's love - however often we might choose to do so. I'm inclined at this point to believe that whatever limit my fallibility and human frailty can impose on the saving power of God's love - for those very flaws God's love is the ideal healing agent. While wise leaders rightfully resist laying heavy burdens of expected perfection regarding lengthy and rigorous daily Bible Study and Prayer times - I can't imagine a down-side to basking as often as we can in the warm light of God's eternal Love for us. And how differently do we read, pray, serve, confess, meditate, sing and grow when we arrive at these from a place of receiving God's love than we do when we approach them from a place of should, must, debt etc. To be sure - we have no personal right to demand such incredible love - and yet God offers it to us - and then calls us children - His children - and tells us stories such as that of the prodigal - and restores sons to widowed grieving mothers - and in all these stories reveals a bit more of His heart towards us. We might start from a place of "pshaawww. love is so squishy." (well - I know I did anyway) - but the more we encounter this force - on good days and bad days - the more incredible and powerful we experience it. So much so that one of the most frequent Bible quotes is "God is love." (1 John 4:7, 8, and 16)