Learning to Love God

When I first heard the Jars of Clay song, Love Song for a Savior, I was confused. The refrain contains the line, “I want to fall in love with You.” My confusion came from listening to that song with a secular ear. How can a person fall in love with God? There is no courtship, no dating, no hanging out with God the Father, Jesus or the Holy Spirit. I liked the song and it’s an easy, catchy tune that I found myself singing.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in the very first paragraph, “He [God] calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all of his strength.” We are called to love God, and I thought I did love Him until I heard that song. I realized that to me, God was like another member of the family; I had to love Him, because that’s what I was supposed to do. I didn’t necessarily choose to do so, but just expected that of myself. Hearing the lyrics of the song made me start to wonder how a person could fall in love with God.

During my searching for an answer, I came across the definition of love described by Fr. (now bishop-elect) Robert Barron: “Love is willing the good of the other.” If God is all-good and all-loving how can I will the good of Him? Precisely because He is all-good and all-loving, God only wants the best for us. He knows that left to our own devices, we would fall into chaos. He gave us His commandments, not because He wants to be mean and limiting, but for our benefit. For example, “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.” (Exodus 20:8), is not meant for God’s benefit, but that we as humans interacting in the physical world, take the time to seek a spiritual relationship with God, whom we know in a spiritual world. Even Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15).

So how can we fall in love with God by keeping His commandments? In some respects, it’s not thinking of command as being an order or demand, but rather something that is a choice happily made. As an example I’ll go back to the third commandment. Rather than considering it a burden, or trying to “schedule” Mass so that it’s convenient for us on Sunday, how about planning nothing but going to Mass as the first thing in the day? Let the Spirit move you through the rest of the day. It may be a great exercise even if it’s not realistic in the long run. Try it, for a few weeks.  Perhaps it will be the jumpstart needed to learn to love the commandments. This sort of openness to the Spirit calls for a change of attitude, a change that we have to be willing to make. But even though it is our free will to make the change, we can always ask God to help and support us in our efforts. And someday we may find ourselves saying, “I want to fall in love with You.”

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