I keep thinking about unconditional love. In the recent death of my father, I believe I have lost the one person who loved me unconditionally. Don’t we all long to be loved without the usual boundaries? What a bewitching concept: to be forgiven, applauded and admired long after everyone else has grown bored or disenchanted. Furthermore, do we not wish to love our spouse/child/parent free from all the predictable limitations? And is our love for others not front and backloaded with expectations and requirements? What is “unconditional love?” And does it really exist? Jesus appeared to love those around him without condition. He could be impatient with his companions and he was ready to scold those whose behavior was contemptuous but he appeared willing to extend sincere love and perspective to everyone with whom he came in contact. In his parable, Jesus uses the Prodigal Father as an illustration of God’s unconditional connection with human beings. In spite of being ignored and used, the Father is willing to forgive, embrace and renew relationships in spite of the ugliness of past decisions.
So how do we get to THAT place? That place where the love we have for our family and friends transcends pettiness, competition and disillusionment? Vera Nazarian, in her book The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration, writes that there are three requirements for unconditional love: “Acceptance,” “Understanding” and “Appreciation.” Those are some heavy duty words—beautiful to read and ponder when one is sipping tea and gazing into an imaginary fireplace—but rather cumbersome when one is attempting to refinance a long term mortgage and navigate a gridlocked freeway! However, what if I were to write those magic words in the palm of my hand, on sticky notes placed upon the bathroom mirror, as screen savers for the computer? If I were to consider the qualities of acceptance, understanding and appreciation throughout my day, I cannot help but wonder if there might gradually be an infiltration of these qualities into my everyday life? And if these characteristics began to manifest themselves more frequently in my thoughts and speech would I not find myself possessing more friendship, more support and a greater depth of love in my life? And while not unconditional, (we may only get one or two of those in a lifetime) anything that cultivates the lifelong goal of loving and being loved is a worthwhile effort….don’t you agree?