I wrote earlier this week about what a difference it makes when we pay attention to the right things, when we pay attention to love instead of fear. I’m particularly aware of the good things that happen in me if I pay attention to the love of God. Still, love can seem very abstract, so I also wanted to share with you five practical steps you can take to receive God’s love in your own life:
1. Pay prayerful attention to the reality of God’s love.
Read through passages in the Bible about God’s love (four of the hundreds of options available: John 15, 1 Corinthians 13, Ephesians 3:14-21, 1 John 4:7-21). Or read passages about Jesus, the embodiment of God’s love (the podcast Contemplative at Home might be a help in this). Or use your spiritual imagination to envision yourself as a beloved child, climbing up onto God’s lap, being welcomed and received just as you are. (You can also try this Be Loved prayer.)
2. Let other people love you.
For many people (and women in particular), it is easier to give love to others than to receive it yourself. And yet the nature of love is reciprocal and relational, so love is incomplete when we don’t allow it to come to us. Look at John 13, when Jesus insists on washing his disciples’ feet. They have to admit their need for his cleansing touch. They have to allow him to humble himself and love them. Similarly, we receive God’s love by allowing other people to care for us.
3. If you are a churchgoer, take the Eucharist.
Receiving the bread and the wine—the body and blood of Christ—whether you think of it symbolically or literally, offers a physical reminder of God’s love for you. For Protestants and Westerners, we have a tendency to live in our heads. Rituals that involve our physical selves can offer a physical reminder of God’s loving action in our lives and for the world.
4. Look for God’s love all around you.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13, “Love is patient. Love is kind.” Every time you see patience or kindness, you are seeing God’s love. You can receive the actions and words of other people—even those who do not believe in God—as a gift from the God of love acting in and through us.
5. Practice loving other people.
Love is relational, which means not only do we receive it as we open ourselves to God’s love and to the love other people offer us, but we also receive it even as we offer it to others. When we are patient and kind, when we are forgiving, when we sacrifice time or sleep or desire not out of grudging resentment but freely, we are participating in an eternal wellspring of love. Our giving is also our receiving.
I hope these thoughts help you become more “rooted and established in love” (Ephesians 3:17) as you receive God’s love.