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Imelda Shanklin: Love

Our study of God could not attain completeness if we should fail to make investigation of him as love. Indeed, acquaintanceship with him as love is the aim of all acquaintanceship with him, for not to know him in this capacity is failure to reach the peace which perfect knowledge brings.

We may have a well grounded faith in the universality of God's empire; we may study to know him as the Changeless Good; we may realize that we live, and move, and have our being in him, the sustaining Spirit; we may endeavor to merge our individual lives with his eternal life; we may seek his wisdom as our wisdom; we may diligently build our bodies out of his glorious body, but not until we acquaint ourselves with him as love do we truly become like him. For love is the heart of God's heart to us; it is the motive in God's creation of us; it is all that he demands of us, for in its completeness all other forms of God reside.

Even when we work in the highest understanding that we have reached, we may find that occasions arise that demand a special dispensation of grace. Love satisfies this demand. If we have failed in wisdom, love will take up the question and clear it for us. If a tangle comes in the web of life, love will smooth it out for us. All things can be kept right by love, because it is God's forgiving nature, acting in us and for us.

Emotional judgment has said that love is blind. This is not an accurate representation of its nature. Love does not have to see physically in order to know that all is as it should be. It looks through the clouds of ignorance with which the emotional mind has veiled life, and its vision beholds the King in his beauty, the God nature within each one of us. This is why every man, every woman in the world is loved by some one, no matter how forbidding may be the appearance which the loved one presents to humanity at large. God will not be unloved, however unlovable may be his mask to the eyes of ignorance. Some one loves the malefactor, some one loves the bigot, some one loves the tyrant. This some one is God in disguise, loving himself in disguise.

Love is the completeness of life. If there has been the omission of a kindness, love puts itself into the gap and more than compensates for the deficiency. If there has been a harsh word, love takes it up and subtly transmutes it into the sweetness of God. If there has been negligence, love comes forward and substitutes its promptness, and inefficiency is supplanted by efficiency.

Love awakens the song that sleeps in the heart, and music floods the spheres. It smites the sealed fountains of joy, and there pours out a stream of happiness which gives roses to the desert of barren lives. It calls to wisdom, and the mind that had drowsed awakes to brilliancy of thought and utterance. It beckons to generosity; miserliness and selfishness burst into a luxuriance of self-giving. It turns its smile upon the laggard; sluggishness is cast off as shackles, and buoyancy supplants indifferent lassitude. It whispers to despair; where darkness had brooded a glory dawns, and radiance discloses the face of God shining from the summit of eternal courage.

It is the thoughtfulness which smoothes the path for others. It is the incentive to our superlative endeavors. It is the disarmer of criticism. It is the author of whatever is beautiful or enduring. It is the mother call and the child response. It is the sublimation of patriotism. It is the giver of the gift. It is the delicacy of the wild rose; it is the immovability of granite cliffs, the tenderness of angels and the purity of heaven. It is its own creator and its own creation. It is timeless, without beginning of years or ending of days, being coexistent with God and the very essence and fiber of his composition.

Love is the impartial Spirit of God. That is why there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free, in God—even as Paul discovered. God so loves the world of humanity that he gives himself with infinite prodigality for the redemption of the forms that he has assumed in permitting himself to be called by the names under which we are known.

Love is the wonder-worker. It takes the least desirable things and transforms them into objects passionately to be desired. An environment may be ever so unpleasing, but let love pour its enchantments into the erstwhile unhappy elements, and joy and peace come in, to construct along the lines of harmony and grace.

Love meets no defeats, no death, no age. The story is told that a traveling party in a strange city had pointed out to them a young woman of uncommon beauty and serenity of face. On being asked opinions as to her possible age, the members of the party agreed that she was perhaps seventeen. The guide told them that her age was more than seventy years; that when quite a young woman, her lover had suddenly died, and from that event time had stood still for her whose mind was fixed on love in the guise of youth. Her contemporaries aged; they passed under the shadow of sorrows and bore the marks of suffering in their flesh. But she, looking daily for the coming of her lover, dressed her body in fair raiment, set flowers in her hair, and trilled the happy song that love had taught her. She did not age, because she knew love. She fulfilled the law and escaped unpunished.

Love gives all the forms of beauty that we have in the world. God is beautiful, and his products are tinged with his own loveliness. Flowers are the love tokens of the Infinite; the starry hosts are the works of love, lavishing upon us the gems of space. Poetry, music, fields, trees; whatever we see or hear, whatever we can enjoy through the senses, whatever draws upon the deeps of being, is provided by the love that holds back from us no part of itself.

Humanitarianism, civilization, education, are forms taken by the love of humanity for humanity. Gentleness, kindness, mercy, are love operating in the zones of altruism. Family ties, community interests, cooperative enterprises, are networks of love that hold society together.

All unselfishness is love. All giving of self for others is love. All forms of love are forms of God the Father, who loves us so much that he must employ all agencies of life and all shapes that he is capable of assuming as adequate means of pouring out upon us the love that fulfills the law, that never fails, that casts out fear, that gives the peace of absolute union with himself.