Close your eyes. Picture someone you love very much, with all your heart. Your mom, your daughter, your nephew, your grandpa, your best friend, your husband, whoever. Pick one. For the sake of this exercise, we’ll call this person the love of your life.
Get a clear image of that person in your mind. See their face, their hair, their hands. Notice their eyes when they glimmer, their smile when it sparkles, their voice when they’re giddy.
Feel in your heart how much you love that person. How much you don’t want that person to ever be hurt or harmed. How much joy they bring to your life.
Feel your heart bubble up with adoration, pride and gratitude for this person.
Now, take all that sensation and bottle it up in a huge water jug. Imagine pouring that jug into the valve of a fire hydrant.
Screw on the hose. Take the nozzle and release the throttle to send your love spraying out into the world.
Like a volcano erupting, let it flow freely. Point your hose out to the rest of your family. Drench them in your love.
Keep picturing the love of your life in your mind’s eye as you do this. S/he is the reservoir and the “water pressure” for this love you’re sharing.
As you cover your family in love, do you find that you’re simultaneously running out of love for the love of your life?
No? There’s still more love to give? Ok, keep spraying.
Now, this time, turn the hose onto your neighbors. Soak them. Turn the hose onto your colleagues at work. Drown them in your love.
Remember the love of your life. Is there more love in your hose for that person? Did it run out? No? Still more? Ok, keep spraying.
Take that hose and point it to the police, firefighters, teachers, doctors, lawyers. Keep spraying.
Point it to the military, the governor, the president, the pope.
Don’t lose sight of the love of your life as you spray. Is the love for that person drying up? Are you losing pressure in your hose? No? Ok, keep spraying.
Spray all the countries of the world and their citizens. Spray the jungles, the plants, the animals. Spray the oceans, the whales, the sharks, the cuttlefish.
Your hose doesn’t seem to be deflating yet? Did you know you could love this much?
The love that you have for the love of your life won’t run out, will it? Reminds me of a particular kind of love…
Jesus is the epitome of unconditional love. The two are synonymous. In his lifetime, Jesus was not only the hose and the fire hydrant, he was the reservoir.
Even his memory reverberates in love.
So who did he love? Who was the love of his life? The stories in the Bible tell us he loved us all, that each and every one of us were the loves of his life.
His hose never stopped pointing, never stopped spraying.
He even managed the tough job of loving his enemies, the liars, the frauds, the criminals, the radicals, the murderers. Those who spit on him and beat him bloody still received his love.
Does your hose reach that far? When you think of the love of your life, do you have enough in your hydrant to spray the “monsters,” too?
Don’t think you have it in you? I’m here to tell you, you do.
What do you think hate, judgment and condemnation are? The constriction of love. It’s a hose with the nozzle turned off.
Why would we ever turn the nozzle off? Because we’re scared to spray the wrong people. Bad people don’t deserve our love.
So we set conditions, limits, quotas. We let our reservoir dry up.
But there’s a reservoir inside of you wide and deep enough to spray anyone, regardless of who they are and what they’ve done. And from a place of unconditional love, there’s no need to be frugal with your hose.
Jesus said, “Whoever is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone…” (John 8:7) He knew that we all carry the burden of perceived imperfection and so wouldn’t feel entitled enough to cast judgement onto another person. That, instead, we might show compassion for each other because we’re all battling similar self-loathing demons.
He taught us that, by throwing stones at another person, we’re really throwing stones at ourselves.
And so, when we withhold spraying even one person with love, we withhold spraying ourselves.
What Would Jesus Do?
Jesus loved without condition. He forgave, he was compassionate, and he saw past the human element in us all: the tendency to hold our hearts ransom, waiting for perfection before we express love.
And so it goes when it comes to loving ourselves, the waiting game persists. Unless we’re perfect, we can’t be lovable.
But he proved that’s not true. Through his unconditional love for all, Jesus reminds us that we are lovable, just as we are. Even with our flaws and scars, we are all worthy of forgiveness, patience, kindness and love, in equal measure.
And if Jesus loved us, we can certainly love ourselves. That’s the sneaky part about unconditional love, it includes loving yourself.
When you can look inside yourself, rummage through whatever’s there and still love the sight of your face, you will be able to love others just as deeply—the monsters as much as the saints.
As soon as you recognize that you are lovable, you become the reservoir.
You become the endless, bottomless reservoir. You become the love of your life. You become the hydrant and the hose.
You are why you’ll never run out of love.
You are why you can keep on spraying.