While the romantic in me longs to be loved unconditionally by those in my life, both family and friends, I realize that it is almost impossible for humans to reach this ideal. They may aspire to love this way, but when their loved one lies to them, or hurts them, or when there are physical changes, or any one of a myriad of other circumstances occurs, love can weaken or vanish.
At times like this it would be nice to be able to cling to the promised unconditional love I am told that the Savior has for us. And it bothers me to hear quotes such as the following:
"Divine love is also conditional. While divine love can be called perfect, infinite, enduring, and universal, it cannot correctly be characterized as unconditional. The word does not appear in the scriptures. On the other hand, many verses affirm that the higher levels of love the Father and the Son feel for each of us-and certain divine blessings stemming from that love-are conditional."
"Understanding that divine love and blessings are not truly 'unconditional' can defend us against common fallacies such as these: 'Since God's love is unconditional, He will love me regardless …'; or 'Since 'God is love,' He will love me unconditionally, regardless …' These arguments are used by anti-Christs to woo people with deception."
"The full flower of divine love and our greatest blessings from that love are conditional-predicated upon our obedience to eternal law. I pray that we may qualify for those blessings and rejoice forever."
- Russell M. Nelson, "Divine Love," Ensign, Feb. 2003, page 20
It is true that we are taught in the Church that we must be obedient in order to merit Heavenly Father's blessings, especially that supreme goal of being able to return one day to his presence. This sends an emotional message that Christ's love could easily turn to rejection. Because of these teachings, I have tried to be very careful not to disappoint God, I've tried hard to become what I am supposed to be, and often I have pretended to be better than I actually am. These feelings and actions show that I am not so sure, after all, that my Savior loves me. Better than anyone, I see how unworthy I am of his love, and I am aware that I have NOT done my best at following his commandments, or even at repenting of the sins with which I struggle.
I have to admit it--I go through times of feeling ecstatic when I am doing well and seem to be succeeding. Yet soon I experience times of despair when I can't seem to stay in control of my sinful tendencies. I become frustrated, and above all, I fear he is not going to be there for me when I need Him the most. In the end, I suspect that he will write me off forever.
I understand that my angst is most likely due to flaws in the way I understand Divine Love. Neal A. Maxwell has addressed this issue as follows:
"It is because God loves us, however, that He seeks with such vigor and long-suffering to separate us from our sins, which He hates. He continues to care for us even when He cannot approve of us. Yet ultimately we cannot go where He is unless He fully approves of us. This outcome, however, reflects the consequences of divine justice, not His love for us, which persists."
"...the hard, cold fact is that how we use our moral agency does not result in a withdrawal of God's love but does determine the ways and the degrees to which a loving God can express His love of us. Only the most righteous will receive His praise, His approval, and enjoy His presence."
- Neal A. Maxwell, _If Thou Endure it Well_, p. 34
That DOES seem hard and cold to me, right now.
Last weekend a friend was telling me her vision of eternity--that after her death, a group of celestial beings would meet with her and review her life work and choices in an unconditionally loving atmosphere. They would smile over her successes AND her failures, ask questions about why she did what she did, and ask her what she had learned. This vision was sweet to me--no condemnation, no punishment, much love. That's also why the Christian born-again, "saved by grace alone" concept is so appealing. But in the end, not something I feel free to embrace. Not quite scriptural, is it? If this was all there was, why does God's Word even mention eternal fire, gnashing of teeth, punishment, separation?
I hope I can get some help with the conundrum I am facing over this issue. I am quite sure that I should be able to trust in my Savior's eternal love--in the times when I am struggling as well as when I am being obedient and worthy. Right now, though, it all seems so impossible. At times I wrestle with sin that I feel powerless to overcome. I do NOT "qualify" for those greater blessings Elder Nelson speaks of--I never can qualify--and I thirst for hope that is more reliable than my own will-power and endurance.
I want unconditional love.