It took me some time in life to know what love is.
And I am still learning.
I expect that will likely continue for the rest of my life.
In my self-absorbed childhood and teen years, it was hard for love to get in, or maybe more accurately for me to be aware of it.
In fact, I remember wondering to myself what love is, as I thought for some reason, I had not experienced love to that point.
I was safe. I was protected. I had shelter, a bed, clothes, plenty of food, and many family members and friends to share life with, with whom I was close and whom made me laugh, and in some cases, cry.
Even as all this was going on, I looked forward to the day when I would grow up and experience love in an adult relationship. I thought that was the goal for when I would know I really mattered.
It didn’t occur to me at the time, that all of these provisions: family, shelter, food, pets, were illustrative of the love already prevalent in my life.
My first experience of non-self-centered love, was when my nieces and nephews were born. Even when you are not the child’s biological parents, your heart, if you allow it to, can expand inexplicably and endlessly as you behold the faces of these little miracles in your hands, and watch them grow.
They count on you for everything.
And you want to give it to them.
Not because you want to spoil them.
But, simply because they exist.
I think that is probably how our Creator looks upon us.
We count on Divinity for everything.
And Divine Grace wants to give it to us (as long as it is for our own good).
Not because it wants to spoil us.
But simply because we exist.
As Pope Benedict XVI has gone on record as saying: every one of us is a “thought of God.”
I was blown away when I first read and really thought about those words.
Love itself had each of us, infinitely unique beings that we are, never to be repeated, in mind from all of eternity, whenever that was.
In my 30s and 40s, after I had been a spiritual seeker for 15 to 20 years and my faith and understanding and experience of God continued to evolve, I realized that I am love, or at least I have the capacity to be love, as an offspring of Love itself.
And so are each one of you.
And so are the “strangers” we look away from…the homeless, the abused, the hungry, the sick, the prisoner, the drug addict, the alcoholic, the unborn, the dying, those with differing political views than our own.
Their substance is love, and their potential is love, as they came from Love itself, even though that love might be hidden from our awareness or theirs, as it was hidden from mine when I was a self-centered kid.
Once we learn what Real Love is and experience it for ourselves, the natural next step is for us to want to give it away, to share it with those who haven’t yet found it for themselves.
One of God’s natural laws is the more love you give away, the more love you will have.
Talk about hitting the lottery!
To the extent that we are able to look kindly and gently and compassionately on the world and all those around us, and treat them in such a manner, we will be graced with more Love than we could possibly imagine or expect.
This ability to “Love one another as I have loved you,” is a total gift, something we cannot stir up on our own, as our selfishness gets in the way, but for which we can certainly pray. And as the same wise person said long ago, “Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be opened for you.”
If you are not familiar with who said these words, Google it, or ask around, and then study up on him, and read his other words and allow them to change you from the inside out.
Peace be with you.
SPIRIT MATTERS is a weekly column that examines spirituality in The Times' readership area. Contact Jerrilyn Zavada at firstname.lastname@example.org to share how you engage your spirit in your life and in your community.