The Loudmouth Protestant

November 6, 2007

Deciphering Your Love

Last Friday evening I was having a conversation with a friend. We were discussing our past love interests and how those people have somehow ingrained themselves in our memory. I shared with her that my past love has a page on MySpace and she shared that her’s has one on Facebook. We chatted about reconciling ourselves to those people and for one moment she even convinced me that it would be kosher for me to contact my past on Myspace because I never know what he might be up to and if he might need to know that someone not in his immediate circle is thinking about him.

For one moment this seemed like a fair enough plan until she shared something else with me. I told her that I wasn’t quite sure why I would contact him and what I expected to get out of it and she segued into a current situation she is in. She told me that with her current situation when she thinks of him she thinks of God. The thought of the two coincide but God plays the bigger part in the formation of the relationship. Right then and there God turned off the lights to my contacting that young man. No sooner than she said it, I realized that my need to contact him was flesh-based and not spirit-based and so God took the taste right out of my mouth. You could say that He slapped the taste out my mouth, but I loved it. I wish He would slap me in the mouth a lot more often, it would cut out the middle man in a lot of situations. And I digress…

But I thank God for stopping me from making a mistake-he always provides a way out. In the midst of my regaining consciousness he directed me to something I read in St. John of the Cross’s “Dark Night of the Soul.” In a translation by Mirabai Starr, Starr says the following about the imperfections of spiritual beginners prior to going through the dark night:

Some forge connections with people arising from sensual lust and not from purity of spirit. To test this, they should consciously recall the attraction and see if it causes remembrance and love of God to grow inside of them or instead triggers remorse of conscience. If the connection is pure, love for God deepens with the deepening of the friendship. Remembrance of God arises as often as thoughts of the friend arise. Growing inside one love means growing inside the other. The spirit of God is like this. Goodness gives way to the good, because of the harmony between them.

But when this love springs from the vice of lust, it has the contrary effect. As love for the human friend intensifies, love for the divine flows away, even from the memory. The soul who loses herself in that other affection will find her love for God growing cold–remembering one and forgetting the other–which troubles her conscience. On the other hand, as love for God increases in the soul, desire for her human friend may fade away and she can lose her taste for it. This is because the two loves could be contrary. Not only do they fail to feed one another, but the dominant one overwhelms and quenches the fire of the other, enhancing itself, as the philosophers have pointed out.

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit,” it says in the Gospel. That is, love connected to the senses ends up in sensuality while love that blossoms in the spirit stays with spirit and grows deeper.

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