When I was about four years old I had a friend named Phillip, a little Sicilian boy who lived next door. He was my first best friend, and we played for hours on endless summer days. Phillip’s family soon moved away. For a few years we sporadically got together, thanks to our moms, and then eventually lost touch.
Over the years, there have been many “Phillips” in my life. I remember fondly the carefree days of my youth, spent in the company of these close friends. A few have died. Others I’ve lost touch with. I have maintained contact with some, but the “magic” is gone.
My first love affair, when I was 19, opened a whole new world. I had never experienced such intimacy and joy. However, when things turned sour, I fell into the deepest depression I had ever known. There have been other romances in my life. They always promised perfection but inevitably delivered the bitter sweetness of real life.
I am now married and have a four-year-old son. We share the joys and pain of everyday life. I yell at him one moment and hug him the next. Often, he stresses me out but I would spend my last dime and my last breath to support or protect him. My wife criticises me one moment and praises me the next. One day, she may refuse to make me coffee and the next day she may spend hours cooking my favourite meal.
I know my family loves me, but I still long for “perfect love.” Someone who I always look forward to seeing. Someone who always brings sunshine to the rainiest of my days. Someone who laughs at (nearly) all of my jokes, almost always takes my side, hardly ever criticises me, and satisfies all of my needs and desires. I’m sure that I’m not alone. Many popular songs, books and movies are about looking for, finding, celebrating or losing such a “perfect love.”
The closer I get to God, the more I realize how self-centered this desire for “perfect love” is. Because of my sinfulness, I do not deserve such a love. If I did find someone who loved me “perfectly,” I would probably take advantage of her or, at least, I might stop growing in holiness.
As I’ve become more religious, I’ve found human relationships less exciting and satisfying. The world tends to love its own and show contempt for the things of God. This is the message of the cross. Yet, I believe in perfect love. God is perfect love. What the world rejected on the cross, God embraced.
As I’ve become a nicer, less worldly person, I’ve felt less respected, less accepted, and less understood by others. I’ve come to expect more from others and they have disappointed me more, yet I realize that I have not loved them nearly enough. God wants me to be the perfect love I desire.
“Lord, show me how to love completely, without asking for love in return. Only then will I become worthy of perfect love, worthy of you.”