This secret, like the toys of young elves left long ago under the heaping mountains, takes a great deal of digging to reach. As time progresses the mountains only grow higher, the earth more compressed and difficult to work with. A vital secret which Heaven has made manifest to mankind (and mankind and Hell have frantically tried to hush up) lies shining in the depths of reality, throwing off its facets God's uncreated light, and we are not now so young and foolish as to miss it, or to neglect searching for it.
Among the diadem of Heaven's gems, this is the greatest which we can appreciate and emulate. "Am I my brother's keeper?" Cain asked, and God answered by sending his only Son to die to redeem mankind. What other love is there than this? What greater love could there be that would do such a thing? To give up all, even that primal gift of life, for another person - this is love abounding, this is love breaking its banks and laughing at the thought of constraint and contingency. Yes, you are your brother's keeper. Yes, you must love your neighbour as yourself. Yes, you must love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength.
But what is love? Is it meek and mild? Is it a protective tempest? Is it feeling? Is it constancy? What is this attribute (we know that it must be more than mere feeling) that we must possess, which must define all that we do? What is it?
The essence of love is to seek the good of its object. It wants nothing more (which is to say, it wants everything of worth) than to bring about its object's happiness and security. This is the nearest love will come to selflessness, though true love, by its very nature, revels and joys in itself and its work. It delights in the good of its object, it spins out silver good for its object like Grandmother Moon at her wheel, it exists to bring about and to live through bringing about the good of its object. This is love: when everything else has been cleared away from its fringes and its core is left bare, this is love: with all that it is, it strives to bring about its object's good.
We are not now so young (as the Green Lady reckoned young) and foolish to miss this gem. Christians believe this instinctively. Everything about their faith confirms this: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son...for God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him;" and "greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." Why did God save mankind? What could possibly be worthy of salvation in fallen man? These questions have peppered the ages, because we understand that there isn't anything in mankind that is worth saving, not once it has been willfully corrupted. So why? Because of love. Because God, in his ineffable council of wisdom, delighted to extend love to mankind, to seek the good of mankind - not because of any good mankind has ever done, but so that mankind might have good.
This is love, and this is love which we can emulate. I dig out this secret and bring it to the fore because I know that it has been obscured beneath layers and layers of shallow Romantic ideals and odd "biblical" notions, not to mention the whole seething wash of the world's confused, twisted definitions. I dig out this secret and bring it to the fore because I know many of you are looking for Mr Right (or Mrs Right). Personally, I don't hold to the notion of a Mr or Mrs Right, or Perfect, or whatever. But neither do I hold to the notion that you can grab any man or woman off the street and such a marriage would be peachy. There are many, many aspects of a relationship that must be developed, and I am here dealing with only the fundamental. Love is patient, not in the sense that it is kicking around waiting for Mr Right, but because it is loving. Love doesn't require a perfect match of personality, love doesn't require a strong, mature nature: love exists in spite of imperfections, and love endeavours to bring about a holy perfection in its object. If you can say "This person, of all the people in the world, is the person whose good I want to cultivate for the rest of my life" then you are in love.
It'll loose all the chains of the ties that bind,
And if you're lucky, you'll never make it out alive -
And that's a good thing. Love is a good thing.
It can hurt like a blast from a hand-grenade
When all that used to matter is blown away:
There in the middle of the mess it made
You'll find a good thing.
Yes, it's worth every penny of the price you paid.
It's a good thing.
Love is a good thing.
Andrew Peterson, "Love Is a Good Thing"