WE enjoy being loved. And we miss it when we aren't! But I am discovering that feeling loved has a lot more to do with how I am thinking about myself and others than with what others feel about me. There have been times, for example, when I have been in strange territory and subject to some brusque treatment, yet I still felt loved. At other times, when with old friends who I know truly care about me, I've occasionally felt isolated and unloved.
Love, then, isn't simply something one person generates for another. In fact, it's not humanly generated, but comes from God. When I've felt loved, it has been because I've been receptive to God's love; and when I haven't, it's usually because I've been forgetting God's love for me.
I need to do more than just tell myself ``God loves me,'' of course. I need to understand that since God is divine Love itself, all of spiritual creation is wrought through His love. God loves each individual in creation. He loves man and cares tenderly for him. ``Father-Mother is the name for Deity, which indicates His tender relationship to His spiritual creation''1 is how Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, describes God at one point.
When we say or think ``God loves me'' from this standpoint, we are taking comfort in a powerful spiritual fact. And this fact that God loves me -- loves each of us -- here and now, can change the way we think of ourselves and others. Understanding this fact can be a first step toward that loved feeling we all yearn for.
As a teacher, I witnessed a clear-cut illustration of this at my school, a private school for individuals with special educational needs. One teen-age boy seemed preoccupied with gaining proof that others loved him. This caused major disruption.
A staff member pointed out to him that all love really comes from God. Even if he were on an island alone, God's love would surround him. But this love of God wouldn't just ``pat him on the back'' and say, ``You're such a great guy!'' Instead, it would give him helpful ideas (about caring for himself and getting off the island, for instance!). This love, the staff member continued, was a light shining in his life right then, showing him ways to be helpful, kind, cooperative, and loving.
This line of reasoning made sense to the young man. That year he made noticeable progress. Because he began to understand the idea that God loved him right then and there, his thought of himself changed. He grew more interested in how he could express helpfulness and love, and less concerned with what others thought of him.
Other people can fail us. But we can always find the love we need by understanding God's spiritual man and his unbroken relation to God. There is grace here. There is ability, beauty, generosity, nobility, and unselfed thinking. There is, above all, an infinite capacity to love and be loved.
This spiritual selfhood we can identify as actually our own genuine identity in God's likeness. ``Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us,'' the Bible tells us, ``that we should be called the sons of God.''2
What greater love can we feel than to know we are ``the sons of God''? Not only do we feel loved then, but we'll be that much closer to every individual the world over, feeling the security and warmth of God's rich love for us all.
1Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 332. 2I John 3:1.