If ever there was a universal language in this world, it could be that of love. Regardless of age, race, nationality, gender or social status, we all want to be loved.
Modern psychologists define love as the strong desire for emotional union with another person. When you love someone, you care for them, talk to them, want to be near them and share with them.
But how do we make those connections when we love God? How does one create a strong desire for emotional union with God? How do you talk to God, be near Him and share with Him?
In the Baha’i teachings, God speaks to humanity, saying:
O Son of Being! Love Me, that I may love thee. If thou lovest Me not, My love can in no wise reach thee. Know this, O servant. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 4.
God calls upon us to love Him, so that we may be able to feel His Love. Love for God is reciprocal, just like in other kinds of love. However, God’s love is always there. In the first place, He created us out of love:
O Son of Man! I loved thy creation, hence I created thee. Wherefore, do thou love Me, that I may name thy name and fill thy soul with the spirit of life. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 4.
So if a person’s desire is to talk to the one they love and be near them, how does one demonstrate this in nurturing their love for God?
In the Baha’i teachings, Abdu’l-Baha tells us that prayer is “conversation with God.” When we pray, we are talking to God.
Think about it this way: when we have not talked to our loved ones for a while, we miss them. There is an emptiness in our spirit. There is a longing to hear their voice or get a communication from them, and that’s what keeps the relationship going. Likewise, when we form a spiritual habit like that of praying at least every morning and evening, we feel a disconnection with the Creator when we have skipped our usual conversation. It is as though we have not talked to our loved one, therefore it is hard to feel God’s love in those moments. His love cannot reach us.
We know that feeling of love and calm contentment we get when we have talked to the ones we love. That same feeling is achieved in prayer when we converse with God. “There is nothing sweeter in the world of existence than prayer.” – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 5, p. 41.
Since we cannot see God, how then can we be near Him, since one’s fervent desire is to be near their loved one? In our effort to nurture our love for God, how do we draw near him? It is easy for God to seem so far away since He is beyond our physical and spiritual understanding. He has, however, assured us of His closeness:
We are closer to man than his life-vein. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 185.
My love is in thee, know it, that thou mayest find Me near unto thee. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 6.
What is it, then, that hinders us from feeling this presence of God near us? The Bible, in Genesis 1:27, tells us that “We were created in God’s image.” This image of God is not of the physical being, but rather a manifestation of the virtues or qualities God possesses. For example, God is the All-Loving, therefore in us He has endowed the capability to love. God is the All-Merciful, likewise in manifesting this image of God, a human being has the ability to forgive.
When one loves another, it is natural to want to do things that will please the loved one. In that way the emotional union is strengthened, and a feeling of closeness, a strong bond, develops.
Likewise in our love for God we strive to do the things that are pleasing to Him that will draw Him near us. For example, being in perfect unity with others, serving humanity, showing kindness, loving all God’s creation and practicing all the other virtues that He has endowed in us.
However, when we do things that displease God, we cannot feel His presence. Envy, hatred, attachment to material things, gossip, worldly desires, etc. all deprive us from feeling the love of God.
O Son of Earth! Wouldst thou have Me, seek none other than Me; and wouldst thou gaze upon My beauty, close thine eyes to the world and all that is therein; for My will and the will of another than Me, even as fire and water, cannot dwell together in one heart. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 33.
When one learns to love God, He becomes a confidant and a true friend, just like in that other kind of love. Through conversation with Him in prayer one turns to Him for guidance, and in the process finds sunshine everywhere. As we all know, love is contagious. When you love God, you will be able to feel God’s love for you, and in return you will show greater love to all the people God created with love.