True love, that is, unconditional love, is a puzzle for many of us. We give it names like agape or grace, thinking it’s reserved for a few or so rare that we have little hope of ever finding it.
However, true love shows many of the same characteristics as the lighthouse, which is not rare and not all that difficult to spot. In fact, the lighthouse is almost always located on a raised promontory, deliberately exposed to everyone on land and sea. Everyone is supposed to see (and hear) the lighthouse; otherwise it could not fulfill its purpose.
The mission of the lighthouse is to guide us through the dangers. Day and night, in any type of weather, its constant light rotates in all directions, 360 degrees, illuminating the safe harbor for travelers by land and sea. When fog envelops your headlamp, the headlamp still shines and adds a loud horn to make sure everyone within range gets the message.
Notice a few things about the lighthouse. First, his lightning strikes everyone equally. Pilgrim or pirate, saint or sinner, it’s not about the lighthouse. The rays from him are available to everyone equally, without any kind of condition or limitation. The only step they need to take is to keep their eyes (and sometimes ears) open. It is always your choice.
Second, the lighthouse does not require travelers to heed its warning. He doesn’t uproot himself, wading into the ocean, taking a ship by the bow and insisting that the ship sail to safety. The lighthouse, by its very nature, sets the example of “tough love” that respects the free will of others to follow their own spiritual paths.
Even if a million ships pass by without attending to the lighthouse, it does not lose heart or begin to think that its purpose is worthless. Keep shining your light because eventually, someone will notice and avoid danger thanks to your lighting. That is the true faith.
Third, the brightest part of its own light falls on the lighthouse itself, proving that light and love are a two-way street, benefiting both the receiver and the giver. This is perhaps the lighthouse’s hardest lesson: giving unconditional love (light) to others should not be a painful sacrifice. We deserve to receive as much love as we lavish on others.
So what does the lighthouse teach us about true love? That we all deserve it, no matter who we are or what we’ve done. That we cannot force our love/light on others because doing so violates their free will. As disconcerting as it may seem, others have the right to reject our light/love. And last but not least, that we deserve our light/love just as much as anyone else we give it to.
These are deceptively simple lessons. Simple in this case should not be equated with easy. Most of us have a hard time understanding these lighthouse teachings, even at the most basic level. We hoard our love and refuse to give it to certain people or groups. We foolishly rush where angels (lighthouses) fear to tread because we lack faith in the free will of others and are therefore confident that we know what is best for them. Or we desperately try to give love while insisting we don’t deserve it, and then giving hurts because our own cup of love is totally dry.
However, true love, lighthouse love, unconditional love, is the simplest of all loves. Perhaps that is precisely why we do not understand it. We are so used to complexity that we dismiss the validity of something so utterly simple.
Since complexity doesn’t seem to be working for us, why not give simplicity a try? Let’s simplify our love and see the lighthouse as the example of how true love really works for others, and for us.