A wedding at which I officiated 10 years ago remains in my memory. It wasn’t really the wedding ceremony but the conversation I had with the bride before the ceremony. We were sitting in the bride’s room going over the final ceremony details. When I congratulated her on her big day, she told me she had been a young adult with no life.
She told me she was 30 pounds overweight, had acne and thin hair. She said she isolated herself, had few friends and was very insecure. She then shared that on a dreary day she happened to be watching a puppy at play. The puppy was very cute, but odd and homely at the same time.
This little dog was romping so confidently, so blissfully, licking her face and giving unconditional love. Her heart was won over and changed. She realized that a powerful message was given to her via that puppy. It was time for her to destroy her list of personal deficiencies, truly love herself, and just go for it in life, no matter what others might think. It was her defining, transforming moment.
From that day, she said, she moved forward with her life. It was clear to her that her first steps were not about repairing appearances but restoring self-assurance. She changed her thoughts and feelings about herself. She began to shift her behaviors, day by day, step by step. She was determined to be the love she so deeply yearned for, the same love she could gift to her world. All of this led to a number of practical things to support her appearance, but these things weren’t done to try to make herself acceptable in her own mind, but as a further expressions of her love for herself and her new life.
The biggest change, she stated emphatically, was to love herself and to let that love flow to others. Her life changed progressively and rather quickly. And now, here she was, in her mid-thirties, moments away from marrying someone she loved profoundly. Her love story moved me profoundly.
Each one of us is a potential master in the expression of love. It is the essence of our true nature. Yet it is so easy to lose track of this. The greatest error is placing love outside ourselves. I love the story of an acclaimed professor who saw two doors. The first door led directly to love. The second door led to an auditorium where a lecture on love was being presented. Without hesitation, he darted into the door to listen to the lecture. Like the mistaken professor, it is so tempting to intellectualize love and think we really know it and understand it.
True love is unconditional love. This is love unburdened from the common distortions – the neediness, expectations, price tags, judgments, demands, bargains, manipulations, and dependencies. To love unconditionally is to remove all demands and prerequisites for the giving and receiving of love. It is loving the true essence, not merely the outer appearances or justifications.
My favorite quote about the power of love comes from Emmet Fox, a great metaphysician and prolific author.
“There is no difficulty that enough love will not conquer;
No disease that enough love will not heal;
No door that enough love will not open;
No gulf that enough love will not bridge;
No wall that enough love will not throw down;
No sin that enough love will not redeem.
It makes no difference how deeply seated may be the trouble . . .
How hopeless the outlook, how muddled the tangle,
How great the mistake;
A sufficient realization of love will dissolve it all. . . .
If only you could love enough,
You would be the happiest and most powerful being in the world!”
By Bob Mueller
Bob Mueller is Bishop of the United Catholic Church. bobmueller.org