Thursday, June 09, 2011
Been Thinking about Unconditional Love
The sentimentality of dog food commercials often include something like, “they give us unconditional love.” Talk about cringe-worthy. Now, let me defend dogs. My little dog is at my feet now, obliviously scratching and licking his hindparts. He wants to jump in my lap and cuddle, which obscures my view of the laptop screen and hinders my hands and fingers from communicating thereby. I enjoy him sitting on my lap because I don’t have a sense of smell so if he stinks I don’t know it; because it makes me feel needed; and because he only weighs 20 pounds.
Side note: Our neighbors, a couple who own two adult pit bulls, found two pit bull puppies in the ditch on our road and picked them up. My husband tried to get me to take one. It was tempting, but it was a puppy (female), very rambunctious, and, well, a pit bull, which can be lovely dogs, and bound to get a lot bigger. I don’t have the energy for a puppy right now.
Back from the detour. We have really grown attached to our dog, but he gives us nothing that approximates unconditional love—or love in general. Companionship, loyalty (maybe), closeness, but that is not love, and definitely not unconditional. If I stopped feeding him for a week he would take up with someone else quite quickly (he eats a lot for such a small dog).
To me, even mentioning “dog” and “unconditional love” in one breath is blasphemy, because only God is capable of unconditional love, loving us despite our actions. I’m not even sure the best of people are capable of it, even parents or spouses. As selfishly as we can be about love in what we give, we love because we need the relationship. God does not.
As Tim Keller writes in The Reason for God, God did not create the world because he needed something or someone. Then he would not be God and I’m not sure he’d be capable of doing such a thing. He already was experiencing perfect fellowship within Himself and creation is an extension of that, not a cry for help. We do not understand the trinity.
So we need another word for truly selfless but still human love, or another one for God’s type of hesed love, lovingkindness, charis, grace. But let’s not say it about dogs. God gives us richly all things to enjoy, but not to idolize and worship, and I fear some Americans do that to their pets as well as their possessions.
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