God loves you more than you love yourself—after all, he created you! Many are blessed to receive this knowledge as children. Perhaps it came through a special openness to wonder at the “big questions” of the universe, or the affection of a doting grandparent. For Christians, God’s unconditional love for every person is the bread and butter (or peanut butter and jelly, if that was what fueled you as a tot!) of teaching children about who they are. But unfortunately, the lesson of God’s love and other childhood convictions can fade over time. Our perception of the world changes. Lessons like this one seem less real and applicable measured against the busy-ness and complexities of adulthood. We grow away from that little kid who always seemed to know right from wrong and who his friends should be. As a result of the mistakes we or others have made, we may even feel estranged from God or at least far removed from his caring gaze.
Fr. Peter John Cameron’s Made for Love, Loved by God is good medicine for anyone in this post-lapsarian, grown-up predicament. If you are ever anxious about how you appear from God’s point of view, or if you realize how little you know about loving others (including God), then I hope to offer you a few reasons why this book would be really good for you.
- Identify the natural desire for love that we all possess from birth. Some have said that to be human is to need to be loved. In colorful case studies, such as the famous atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair or Flannery O’Connor’s protagonist Joy Hopewell in “Good Country People,” Cameron probes the combined intellectual and emotional evidence regarding the desire for love in the human heart. Do people want deep affirmation and relationship connections in vain? Or does this innate longing evidence something—or someone—who can actually complete us?
- Learn what we mean (and don’t mean) in saying “God is love” and “God loves you.” Faith will play an important part in any experience of love—with God or with other people. Learn why life becomes absurd when we forget about faith in the One who loves us into existence. What is it about God’s love that we must understand if we are to reconcile the experience of frail human love with the heroic and other-worldly love of Jesus? Discover the key to responding to the divine invitation to love and be loved.
- Reflect on the meaning of friendship, especially Christian friendship. Part of what makes Christianity revolutionary is the level of intimacy which God calls us to. Jesus issues the invitation, “I have called you friends” (Jn 15:15). Fr. Cameron invokes a number of witnesses to the significance of this friendship, from Aquinas to Robert Hugh Benson to Benedict XVI. Laymen, like C. S. Lewis and even the famous impressionist Vincent Van Gogh, are tapped for their thoughts on how a true friendship brings you out of yourself and rescues you from things you should not face alone. Discover what it is about our human friendships that prepare us to be friends of God. Finally, discover what friendship with Christ actually looks like.
- Take courage knowing that no sin of ours can withstand God’s love. We all fall into self-destructive tendencies and wrongdoing towards others—even those we love most. So what do we do? Made for Love will direct you to the example of St. Peter who, despite his talk of faithfulness to Jesus, denied him three times when it really mattered. Yet God extends to Peter—and to us—a deeper truth than our guilt: mercy. Will we turn away in shame and self-conceit? Or will we choose to allow our hearts to be re-shaped and expanded by a divine gift?
- Plan how you will respond to the suffering that comes with any experience of real love. The author tells us about his personal encounters with someone whose love has suffered the most pungent of modern evils—Jenny Hubbard, whose daughter was murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School. How do parents like Jenny process such horrors and come away stricken yet stronger in faith than ever before? There is a great secret here to be learned from the likes of St. Therese of Lisieux and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta: they experienced the mystery of the Cross and somehow were transformed in their knowledge of God and his love for them. Fr. Cameron guides his readers through seven steps that help us not only to cope with the evils we face, but to find in our crosses the same Cross of Christ, in which we find hope and salvation.
Made for Love is a treasure trove of insight and inspiration to help us in our daily efforts to be truer lovers and more authentic believers. Fr. Cameron provides deep and varied meditations on the above points which make for good day-to-day spiritual reading. He ends this volume by reflecting on prayer and love of neighbor. This nicely reflects Jesus’ twofold “Law of Love.” Reading this book will grant new insights into the nature of God’s love. I can see the challenge opened up before me and every believer: God’s love is real, free, and abundant for those who accept it. Men and women will find themselves happiest when they imitate God and when, learning to relish his love, they in turn seek to give it away to others.
Image: Bartolome Esteban Murillo, Christ Healing the Paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda