A little over a year ago my wife and I were blessed with twins. Now we have four daughters, and I am surprised at the depth of emotion each of them evokes in me. Whereas once I scarcely felt I had enough love for just me, I now have love for five. I never knew, and even now am surprised to discover, that I have such a reservoir of love within me which seemed to grow deeper the greater the demands placed upon it.
Even when the twins won’t go to sleep at night and I get angry, and the older children wake them once they’re asleep, and I get angrier, yet I know that I love them. Surprised by these hidden depths of love within me, I reflect on God’s love, and feel that I know it better now. If I can love like this how much more can God? Hosea seems to come by a similar path to a realisation of God’s love, through his love for his faithless wife [chapters 1 & 2], and for his son [chapter 11], both of which he sees as images of God’s love for His people. I remember clearly how once a woman bringing up her children on her own, not always with manifest success, said to me that she had stopped believing in God when her husband left her. Gradually I have concluded that what she meant was that when she believed that her husband stopped loving her, then she was no longer able to believe that God loved her. Our ability to know God’s love is dependent upon our knowing human love. How else can we know what the experience means? Jesus preached about God’s love, and demonstrated his own love for the loveless around him –the broken, the poor, the rejected. Perhaps He did that because He knew that unless those people experienced human love they could never grow to know divine love. And He became known as God incarnate, love in a human form, by those who had come to know the love of God of which He spoke, having first been loved by Him. Perhaps I, in a much lesser way, also become God incarnate in as much as I love my children, and they knowing [I hope] that love, come to grasp God’s love too. But this depth of human love is shown by all manner and condition of men and women, to their children, their families, to neighbours, to relative strangers even. In them too I see the love of God incarnate, although I don’t imagine for a minute that they would call it that – they would think that I was being very pompous if I named I thus. And in a sense they’d be right. Often I seem to be drumming up to great significance, virtues which some people live with, day by day, very humbly. The Spirit of God quietly goes about Her business, evoking this love in people for each other; whereas I struggle to talk about it with an air of profundity as if it were a subject only Christians had some experience of.