First it was the cooing. Then it was the tongue clicks. Then the grunts.
Samuel’s communication has progressed these nine months, yet one thing has consistently accompanied them: eye contact. He needs the visual confirmation that he is connecting with me and I am responding. And when a smile breaks out over his little face, we both know something special is happening.
We use words for that something special–intimacy, connection, attachment, bonding. These are helpful words, yet they aid us most in recovering the fuller meaning of the Bible’s word for this reality, namely, love.
In his wisdom, God has created us to develop from cooing babies to articulate adults in order to provide perspective on the enhanced dimensions of love. I love Samuel as fully as I can. Yet at this point that love might be described as one-dimensional. I grunt, he laughs. He grunts, I smile. This repeats, yet never grows beyond the single dimension, the line between my heart and my son’s instinct.
Then there are the big kids. They have been subjected to my dry humor and endless antics long enough to not only understand a broader communication but to reciprocate. They make jokes, try to surprise me from around the corner, and act on my requests with absurd literalism. Their expressions of “I love you” have been given the breadth of “because…” or “even though…” statements. Our communication and love is two-dimensional. The years have expanded the line into a square.
Contrast this with my love for Rachael. For nearly 12 years now we have been covenanted in marriage. We have shared surprise, exhilaration, loss, disappointment, and a few miracles. We often communicate at deep levels without words. She sees my sarcasm from a mile away and I can decipher her tone of voice. Our hearts are connected in ways that transcend any other human relationship. This love is no square but a cube, not only wide but deep. It is a three-dimensional connection.
Now comes the fun part, where our brains must attempt to launch into the nearly unimaginable.* The communication of God transcends ours infinitely more than my knowing glances to Rachael transcend Samuel’s cooing. The Father articulates himself not in syllables or smiles but in a person, the Word. This is not a word the Father spoke at one point in time. No, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The Word has always been the Father’s expression, “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3).
This transcendent communication means that God experiences a transcendent love. To call this four-dimensional would be blasphemy. It is a love of infinite dimensions. Jesus, the incarnate Word, said that the Father “loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). Let yourself be lost in this mystery: the Father eternally adoring the perfect expression of his glory in the Word and the Word eternally delighting in the brilliant perfections of his Father. Think about it for more than a minute and your heart will echo the Psalmist’s words–“Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it” (Psalms 139:6).
Yet this knowledge is more than theological speculation. When we attempt to comprehend the fathomless love of God, we are reminded of the glory that awaits us at Christ’s coming, when we too will be brought into this indescribable intimacy. This anticipation strengthens us to ignore the allurements of what passes for “love” in this world. The smallness of our ambition and lust is exposed when set against God’s ineffable love.
With the Spirit’s empowerment, then, let us strive to know the love of God and the God who is love. And as we do, little children, let us love one another.
*Here I borrow both from Edwin Abbott’s novella “Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions” and from Jonathan Edwards’ “An Unpublished Essay on the Trinity.”