Never had moving been so easy. My friends dived into unpacking in ways that settled my new apartment quickly.
Claire was especially devoted, and she was celebrating all the good going on in my life when she asked, "Is your heart so full because of Joe?"
I smiled. Joe is an amazing gift in my life, but honestly I had to tell her that he wasn't the source of the joy.
"It isn't him, Claire. For the first time, I think I understand that there's just one Love in my life, and all of you are confirmations of it." As sweet as the romance is with Joe, it isn't more significant than my friends' generosity, my mother's tender support, my children's enthusiasm for my progress. Joe doesn't feel like a whole new thing but a natural expansion of my heart revealing a bigger view of God's love taking another amazing form.
This understanding has been long in coming. The gentle healing of my widowhood opened my heart to dating again. But even then, romance had felt like an elephant that was always in the wrong place causing havoc.
If I had someone in my life, I was miserable because the relationship wasn't what I wanted. If I didn't have someone special, my heart ached, and I undervalued the good going on.
What has come to feel safe and secure is the knowledge that the one Love that is God fills all space, all the time, every place I go, in every aspect of life. God, our Father-Mother, Creator, would not ask us to live one moment of our lives alone.
This understanding brings a new perspective to all my relationships, including Joe. How can I love with a pure and perfect heart each person in my life? This is a tough question because often my instinct is not so unselfish. Getting what we want out of relationships may feel at first like the point of having them. But the selfish instinct is the animal instinct that spoils relationships quickly. Instead of being a blessing, other people start to feel like yet another frustration.
Inevitably life's lessons bring me back to face the demand to practice unselfishness. Not the kind that is self-flagellating, martyred, or putting up with abuse. But the kind of unselfishness that understands the source of love to be the all-Love that is God.
Finding happiness in pleasing others can deteriorate into a loss of our own identity. True unselfishness is the discipline to live the love that we have been loved with - never to lose the conviction that God is here and now celebrating, adoring, delighting in us. From that position of strength, it is natural to share the overflow with others. As I understand God to be the source of the love I express, it's easier to trust God's guiding the path of a relationship.
There's a difference between loving in response to God and loving in reaction to another person. Jesus' experience during the last meal with his disciples before his crucifixion continues to be instructive. He knew Judas would betray him, and yet Jesus washed his feet along with those of the other disciples. He told them all that in order to go into the world and minister to others, they must recognize how their feet have been washed. It would keep them humble but also in a position of strength.
In a rare insight into Jesus' prayer, the Bible reads: "Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; he riseth from supper ... and began to wash the disciples' feet" (John 13:3-5).
Jesus knew where the love came from; It enabled him to forgive Judas even before his sin. There is such authority in that foundation of love. It must be what the Bible calls "a wise and an understanding heart" that Solomon prayed for (see I Kings 3:12).
Such a heart is tempered like steel in the knowledge of the constancy of God loving each of us. A tempered heart welcomes opportunities to love, and becomes less vulnerable to believing that it's possible to lose love or miss out on it.
On this Valentine's Day may we honor the one source of love that enables us to be strong and faithful.
Happiness is spiritual, born
of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it.
Mary Baker Eddy
(founder of the Monitor)