by Jeffrey Wattles
Talk about an idea with implications for how we live! If I believe that God—the good, true, and beautiful universal creator; mightier than all others; the only One who exerts might upon all that exists; the ultimate source of might for all others—loves me, then I want to experience this. I want to receive this love more fully, return it more spontaneously, and give it to others more divinely.
In order to speak in a fresh way about the applications to daily life stimulated by Tom’s new book, The Uncontrolling Love of God, I undertook a project, which I dubbed “and love.” The idea was to add love to my intention in each task I undertake, small or large, throughout the day. After ten days, this is what I have to report.
My career as a philosopher was based on the idea that learning to live into high concepts of truth, beauty, and goodness would help me to realize the love of God in a new way. Over the years I learned much about the relationship between those concepts and the love of God. Countless experiences have encouraged me along that path, and this project on love was a special time of integrating and harvesting. Particularly, love led me to a more mature commitment to goodness and thus a new unification of all three supreme values.
Shortly after the strong decision to launch this project, the phrase “and love” inserted itself into my stream of consciousness a couple of times, in a spontaneous and timely manner. This was very encouraging, but as time passed it required more effort to refresh the intention.
I began with a brave self-opening to receive the love of God in new fullness. I waited . . . and waited some more . . . and then some more. Frustration was beginning to set in. Looking back, it strikes me as comical and instructive. I eventually decided to take a different approach. When I want something for myself, I give to others the very thing that I desire, so I began to simply devote myself to being a good host to the Father’s spirit within me. Doing so implies faith-trust in the reality of the loving presence of God which is already there. This presence does not have to be requested, only received. As soon as I shifted to the role of a welcoming host (in ways analogous to how I would make a friend feel at home), I found the love that I had been seeking. In fact, the radiant presence of divine value, the flow of my love toward the spirit within, and the flow of divine love to me were indistinguishable currents in a general delight.
One memorable episode was interviewing a Finnish teacher and artist and asking what advice she would give to someone who wants to be good at teaching. She replied, “Love. Love everyone equally. All your students must feel that you are interested in them. Children and adults know intuitively if you have favorites.” That was the perfect lesson for the class that I was about to begin. I also came to a new level of love for someone who has been very difficult for me to love. I envisaged him under the idea that we stand before God as equals. He, too, is a divinely created, infinitely loved, spiritually indwelt, evolutionary, free-will son of God. With another person who has been sometimes difficult for me to love, I broke through her surface and mine to embrace her unbeautiful emotional reactions in love.
Most important during the “and love” project was an enhancement of the personal, relational quality of my life. Having developed my mind in religious philosophy and my soul’s capacity for recognizing divine value, I would too often rest content in those domains where I could readily find satisfaction. But love is holistic. It does not rest in intellect and even goes beyond soul. It surges forth as a whole to relate with the God who calls to me like Jesus did to Lazarus in the tomb, “Jeff, come forth!” Worship is not just activation of the mind and soul; it is more than singing or engaging in some gesture of devotion, whether alone or with others. There is a going forth from self, an entry into the space of Presence, a meeting, a relating in love.
Finally, I felt a new heart given to me. It came with a new trust in divine love and a new readiness to love the will of God. For a while, my mantra morphed from “and love” to “love-will.”
Such spiritual experiences are, for the most part, passing phenomena. They nevertheless accumulate, even if the discoveries need to be rediscovered. During the past ten days, I realized above all that love—personal, fully activated relating—is an experience of a different order than anything that intellect or soul alone can know. I will always associate this project in my mind with Tom and his book and his invitation to respond to it in terms of applications in daily life. This project joins my cluster of enduring projects along with scientific living and artistic living. There are more stories to tell, but this is plenty to enable you to see the power of a project approach to growth. Happy loving!