I want to tell you a story that changed my life.
On my first visit home from college, I was in my grandmother’s kitchen. While she cooked, I breathed in deep through my nose. Rosemary, stewed tomatoes, garlic, and the sweet savor of sausage and peppers. It was good to be back in the land of real food—so good that I wanted to hang onto it.
“Grandma,” I said around a mouthful of stolen bread that I had conveniently dropped in the saucepan, “you gotta teach me how to cook some of this stuff—the food’s so bad at college. Look, I’ve already lost fifteen pounds!” I patted my stomach for dramatic effect.
She glanced up from the pot she was stirring, tsk-tsk’ed at how her grandson was wasting away before her eyes, and began to narrate her cooking for me. The next minutes were filled with “just a pinch of this, or more if you feel like more,” “just long enough to bring out the spice,” and “your grandfather would eat this for breakfast if I let him!” Nothing was written, and everything was guided by her nose, her taste buds, and her decades of experience. The look on her face told me she was loving it.
At first I felt confident. Like, I could totally make that! But as my grandmother’s instructions piled up and blurred together, I began to realize that it would take a lot longer than half an hour to learn a lifetime of cooking wisdom. “Grandma,” I finally burst out, “you never use recipes, so how come everything still tastes so good?”
She smiled from ear to ear, and probably would have reached up to pinch my cheek if her hands hadn’t been buried in a bowl of salad ingredients. “Danny,” she cooed, “my cooking tastes so good because I put a lot of love into it!” Love was the secret ingredient that Grandma added to absolutely everything she cooked. And she was right: that was why her food tasted so good.
One of Jesus’ disciples and friends, John, writes in 1 John 4:
Friends, let’s love each other! Since love comes from God, we can know God by truly loving each other—just like a lack of love is a sign that we don’t know God. And we know God loves us like this: God sent his Son, Jesus, to live with us, and to love us, so that we could learn how to live and love in the same way. That’s one reason we ought to love each other . . . we might not be able to see God, but we can’t miss the evidence of God’s love all around us when we love each other.
Isn’t that a rad riff on love? My Italian grandmother cooks the way God does everything—with unbelievable love. And here’s the crazy part. She doesn’t cook with love after I tell her how much I enjoy her food—she cooks with love before anyone sits down to eat. Her love is preemptive, so it sweetens everything she prepares, no matter who is sitting down to eat it.
That’s exactly how it is with God. God loves us before we come to him. The Bible is chock-full of stories designed to tell us exactly that. Think of King David, the author of a ton of the Psalms, who wrote a praise song (Psalm 139) about how God knew him and loved him while he was still in his mother’s womb. Or think of how Jesus, along with God the Father and God the Spirit, set in motion the rescue plan for humanity before you or I even existed.
See what’s going on? Love comes from God. When we love each other, we’re showing each other that we’ve had a taste of what God is like. And when we love each other preemptively, we’re giving the world—strangers, neighbors, enemies, and absolutely everybody—a picture of God. Here’s what we’re chasing. Love is meant to be experienced. Love Supreme is not just an idea or a concept. It’s real, it’s lived, it stirs our emotions. It makes us lose our minds sometimes for those we love, because our hearts are so full. Look, it doesn’t matter who is coming over for dinner. Family, friends, strangers … even enemies. What matters is that we cook with love, ahead of time, just in case, because that’s the way to taste a Love Supreme.
And that’s how to find the most real love you’ve ever experienced… Know the love of God, and give that love to others. And when you receive love, if it looks like the love of Christ, that’s a Love Supreme too.