There is more than one way of loving.
There is to be in love with someone,
to respond with joy and wonder at the person God has already formed,
enjoying the gift of their presence;
and there is to love someone,
to commit to helping them become the person God is yet to form,
without seeking to control that process in any way. 
(I reflected on these ideas last summer, in one of my favourite posts of last year – go read, if you are interested.)
To be in love with my son is to celebrate the stage in life he is in at present, not wishing he were beyond it (this is not always easy!); while to love him is to accompany him on his journey through subsequent stages – in which I shall be in love with him…
If I were only in love with my children, however good my intentions, they would be stifled and grow up too slowly to reach healthy maturity. If I only loved my children, however good my intentions, they would be pushed ahead of themselves and grow up too quickly to reach healthy maturity. I and they need the dynamic tension between these two ways of loving.
God is both in love with us – sees us, just as we are, in Christ, as perfect – and loves us – desiring, fostering, but not forcing, growth.
Earlier this week I was listening to someone speak of friendship. Of how to be a friend historically was a passionate relationship (i.e. an ‘in love’ relationship) that always sought the good of the friend (i.e. a ‘love’ relationship). Of how we have debased passion by restricting it to sexualised passion; and debased friendship by restricting it to shared experienced (so, and in stark contrast to the moral and life-enhancing concern of friendship in times past, ‘friends’ go out binge drinking – mutually endorsing self-destructive behaviour – in our society).
It struck me because I already felt that God had been speaking to me, in the week since college started back after Christmas, about passion being the defining word for how I am to live this somewhat strange season…
 There is a wonderful scene in the film Love, Actually where one of the characters (played by Andrew Lincoln), who is in love with the newly-wed bride (played by Keira Knightley) of his best friend, turns up at her door and in silence holds up a series of placards on which he declares his undying love “without hope or agenda,” and then walks away, saying to himself, “Enough, now.”
I love this scene for so many reasons, including that it shows that it is possible to be in love with someone without wanting to possess them for yourself, and that it is possible to love another enough to lay down your own hope or agenda in deference to theirs…