Love is somewhat about getting inside somebody else's head. In a good way, of course, a trustworthy way. It's about getting inside someone's head to help him, not to torment him.
To love someone is to be able to imagine what he thinks, how he feels, what motivates him. Then, taking it a step further, love is about using what you know about the inside of somebody's soul to minister good to him. Love is knowing a person intimately and cherishing the relationship, translating your knowledge of him into acts of grace.
Thus, the first step in love is to listen and learn. Love tunes in, asks questions, ponders responses and asks more questions. Love is interested. Love is concerned. Love cares.
Sometimes you try to understand someone, but it is hard. When people are hard to understand, you need to keep trying to understand anyway; that's loving your neighbor as yourself. You don't give up.
How do you understand someone? People are all so different, there is not one answer to this question. Some people are open, honest and vulnerable. They are fairly easy to understand, if you have an inclination to do so. Other people are open but deceitful, hiding their true selves for a variety of reasons, even as they smile and chat. Still others are closed books who do not even pretend to share information. You have to listen, learn, watch for clues, notice patterns, ponder habits. Some people have been hurt deeply but never admitted it, even to themselves, and they don't want you to discover what they themselves are trying to hide from.
When you love someone, you pry into his life. Perhaps you do this very slowly and gently, trying not to hurt, trying not be noticed. Perhaps you are inept at this skill and try to force the door open, creating a great deal of resistance on the other side.
Once you gain some understanding, you must guard the other person's vulnerability with your very life. This is the epitome of sharing secrets. A loving person is a trustworthy person. A loving person never betrays knowledge of the deep parts of someone's exposed soul.
There exist certain people who are adept at understanding others, but they use their knowledge to harm rather than to help. They find out the deepest fears and exploit them, the deepest longings and frustrate them. This is evil, an utter perversion of the human condition. These people are the most dangerous of all people. They exemplify the terrifying relationship between love and hate.
Love creates safety for the beloved. It is not safe to love, but it is safe to be loved, to be someone's beloved. Well, it's safe if the lover is faithful. It's perfectly safe if the Lover is God.
. . . perfect love casts out fear . . . (from 1 John 4:18)
Grace is when you love even when you are not loved in return, when you sign up to be the one who protects rather than the one who is protected.
Grace is taking the hit to spare your beloved.
Jesus did this best of all, when He gave His life to save God's children.
Grace is a very special form of love.