Several years ago, I called my sister and shared what I thought was an amazing revelation, breaking news.
“Everyone just wants to be loved!” I practically screamed into the phone.
“Uh, OK, Theresa” my sister responded warily.
“No, really,” I said insistently, “Listen to me, this is the key to understanding yourself and relating to every single person you will ever meet!”
“Well, minus the occasional psychopath,” I added.
We laughed and I am sure my sister made a mental note to screen my calls in the future.
But I still remember that realization. It was one of those moments in life when cliched, superficial knowledge became real, deep, and profound.
Everyone just wants to be loved.
Some express their desire to be loved by rejecting others, before they have a chance to be hurt by them, because they have never experienced unconditional love.
Others express their desire to be loved by trying to always be on top — to be the smartest and the most charismatic in the room — because they confuse respect with love.
Others try to be physically appealing, because they confuse lust with love. The methods of our wayward pursuits of love go on and on.
We all have looked for love in ways that hurt ourselves and others at some point in our lives. But beneath our confused searches, what we all really want is to be loved radically and understood completely.
But, even when we look in the right places for love, all of us eventually learn a lesson that is terribly difficult to understand and to accept:
No one will ever love us completely.
No one will ever understand us completely.
No spouse, friend, family member, or child will ever look into our eyes and see it all.
When Jesus first meets Peter in the Gospel of John, Jesus “looked at him” and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (Jn 1:42).
This one sentence is so rich with meaning; it tells us so much about God’s love for Peter and for us.
Regarding this incident, Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote in his commentary on John: “Christ, wishing to raise [Peter] up to faith in his divinity, begins to perform works of divinity, making known things that are hidden.”
Jesus gives Peter evidence that he knows him through and through and that he knows things about him that no one else knows. Jesus’ knowledge of Peter stretched from the present and into the past, encompassing even Peter’s family tree. Jesus looked at Peter and he knew him, so well that he named him prophetically, prior to his transformation in Christ, according to the person he would become in the future. Jesus knew Peter so well that he knew where he came from, where he was, and where he was going, or could go if he chose to immerse his life in Jesus.
This demonstration of God’s all-encompassing love did not just happen between Jesus and Peter in the past. It happens now between each of us and Jesus. It happens every time we take the time to search for Jesus and to look at him.
The secret of progress in the spiritual life is found in our encounter with this unconditional, endless love of Christ. It is only when we are immersed in God’s love that we will have the strength to let go of the many unhealthy ways we search for love.
After all, we will never find anyone who knows, understands, and loves us as Jesus does.
So we should probably stop looking.