I read a very good apologetic by a British theologian a few weeks ago. It was full of clever, convincing arguments and trains of thoughts, but one sentence in the book struck me more than any other. A very simple sentence:
“Everybody knows that love is the greatest thing in the world.”
The context of the statement is that this is one of the ways, in a small list, that man differs from animals- his social relationships- “human beings hunger for the authentic relationships of love. Love is not just a disturbance in the endocrine glands!” John Stott writes.
I am aware that there are physiological and psychological aspects to love. But if you have experienced this kind of loss and grief for someone you love, you will understand that it is very difficult to believe that all of this is simply part of the physical makeup of my creaturely body.
And I think as I read the above statement, “Of course, of course everyone knows that.” This is what every archetype and fairy tale reveals. This hunger to be loved and to be known. It’s tempting to read the statement and shrug it off as sentimental, but it is much more profound than that. The love spoken of here is not lust or romance, or the hormones of “falling in love.” It is love in the truest, purest sense- putting another above yourself- being willing to suffer for another. At their root, humans are selfish and self-absorbed. Despite what humanists want to believe about the goodness of human beings, any mother whose had to teach her child how to share can recognize that sharing and putting others first is certainly not inborn. It must be taught. So, where does this love we all seek come from? Because this love stands out so much from any other offering in life- it seems to be a clue, a remnant, of the creator.
And I ask myself, if my relationship was just another wheel in the mechanism of our evolving creatureliness- and if I was attracted to my husband to procreate, then why, oh why, do I find myself adoring the shape of his shoe after it had taken on the shape of his foot? Why, oh why is the imprint of his handwriting to me loveliness itself? Why then do I search the figures on the streets for one whose walk resembles yours, dragging your feet just a little, pointing the toes in ever so slightly- just so I can pretend for one moment… What would I have to gain from these subtleties? Anyone who has grieved knows that what they knew of their love before was only like the tip of an iceberg showing; only upon striking it, does one uncover its immensity, power, and divinity.
Everybody knows that love is the greatest thing in the world.
“…and to know this love that surpasses all knowledge…” eph. 3.19
This must be a whole other kind of knowing.