being born again, Bernard of Clairvaux, dark night of the soul, darkness, ecstasy, experience, eyes of the heart, following Jesus, God's love, heart, intimacy, Janet Ruffing, Jesus Christ, joy, Karl Rahner, mysticism, pain, sanctification, Sebastian Moore, spiritual power, the dark night of the spirit, the new self, the old self
Am I able to love like God loves? No, never, and that won’t ever change. But I do know as soon as my old self has been completely died, I can.
How is that possible? The only hindrance to let God’s love fully flow through us and from us to others is the old Adam, the one who has not yet given up on trying to do God’s work, the one who has not yet stricken his colors and given into that painful process of dying to self whatever the cost. I do admit that cutting heart pains day and night are not fun, really. 😦 Yet Jesus didn’t promise us that circumcision of the heart by pruning our old and worthless branches would be all joy and pleasure. Instead, He called sanctification “the narrow way to life” which only a few were able to find during their lifetime. Our goal should be the one the apostle Paul by grace had already achieved as he described here,
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20 ESV)
How do we get there? Although I can tell you that it is anything but easy to keep still when the pain cuts deeper and deeper, I have realized as soon as God helped me to yield to this process and to surrender to Him, I could suddenly feel His love stronger and deeper than ever although suffering did NOT stop. No, it has been increasing lately so that I thought I couldn’t take it any longer. But suddenly I saw Jesus as close as I have never seen Him before and I simultaneously felt that the deepest joy and love could be found right there in those deep valleys of death, where I find myself joined and knitted together in oneness with Him who knows suffering like no one else. The apostle Peter said,
“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.” (1 Pt 4:1-2 ESV)
Paul explained that “we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Rom 8:17 ESV) That is exactly what I have been experiencing lately. Not only a period of suffering and some new-found glory afterwards, no, even in the midst of deepest suffering there is a higher degree of glory which could never be achieved without suffering. So meanwhile, suffering makes sense to me.
As for experiencing God’s love to an ever deeper and stronger extent, I want to emphasize that it is indeed God who longs to be loved back by us. The more we yield to everything that happens in our life – inside (heart change) and outside of us (circumstances) – the easier it is to get closer to Him. However, even here we need His grace so that we finally surrender all we have and what we are to His pruning, but loving hands.
By the way, what is LOVE at all?
The Bible does not tell us that God gives us His love, nor do we read that one of God’s chief features is love. No, we are confronted with the statement that God’s BEING is love. Love is not an essential part of Him, LOVE is all there is about Him.
Okay, I admit, that is not a really new thing and we may talk about God and His love forever and a day, however, if we never experience what it means to be loved unconditionally, just the way we are and with our whole being involved, all such statements remain non-words for us. We can read the Bible back and forth and up and down, shake the whole book until all words related to love fall out of it, we can count them then, yet that won’t feed our hungry souls, either.
The bad news is, we cannot make it nor fake it if we have not yet experienced His love because our ability to love others is strongly related to our receptivity for the love of God. The more love God has shed into our heart (Rom 5:5), that is, the more we have been filled with His Spirit, the more we will be able to love everyone, even our worst enemies. But the good news is that we all know love to a certain degree, some more, some less, depending on the extent of love we have received from our parents, lovers, children, relatives, and friends in our whole lifetime. And the human love we already know is the gateway for new and deeper experiences of divine love.
I do not want to present doubtful “methods” on how to quickly find God’s love and on how to experience it since that is not possible. It is always God who draws us closer to Him and all we can do is seek Him and ask Him to give us what we do not know yet. Instead, I want to give you an excerpt from an article by Janet Ruffing of which I hope it offers some food for thought and discussion on here.
[Karl] Rahner emphasizes over and over again that the fundamental experience of the believer is that we are not abandoned to our own devices, set loose in the world, longing for a transcendent experience of love we can never have, but that the very Mystery itself solicits us, moves toward us in love and in mercy. This movement of the Mystery toward us is what the Christian revelation is all about; it is also what Islam and Judaism are about. All three traditions hold that God is personal and God is love. In Christianity that love became totally human and accessible in Jesus.
Further, the mystical part of these three traditions assert that we are to enter fully into intimacy with the Divine Beloved. We are to become love, too. The search for the Beloved by the believer is not initiated from the human side. It is the result of the reality that we have already been awakened to this divine love affair from God’s side. No matter how confusedly we interpret this experience, no matter how many mistakes we make along the way, no matter how often this desire for the Divine Beloved gets displaced onto other loves or other objects of desire, God continues to solicit and elicit our love. [Sebastian] Moore says, “All desire [is] solicitation by the mystery we are in” (Jesus, Liberator of Desire, p. 11). The mystical process itself is the path toward illumination-toward recognizing what these desires are about, correctly interpreting them, and directing them toward the Divine. All our loves can be encompassed in this divine love – all human loves contribute to our capacity for this divine-human intimacy. Our human loves, according to Bernard of Clairvaux, all become ordered in relation to the divine love. Whenever we fall in love, our beloved is God for us for a while. If our beloved is not the divine beloved, we will eventually be called to forgive them for not being able to be God for us.
(Presence, An International Journal Of Spiritual Direction, Jan 1995, p. 24/25)
If you want to read more, click here: http://divinity.yale.edu/sites/default/files/Encountering%20Love%20Mysticism.pdf