On being loved: A thought on spiritual dry spells
A while back fellow convert, regular commenter and occasional guest blogger Steve G. emailed me with some thoughts on a long period of darkness that he experienced. His reflection was so interesting and thought-provoking that I just couldn’t keep it to myself, so I asked if I could share it here. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with Steve G., I highly recommend checking out some of his other writing here.) Here is what he wrote:
It’s amazing, but the darkness that I have been under for at least half a year now suddenly and nearly miraculously has begun to lift. It’s in part contributable to just getting healthy, finally getting some decent sleep with the relief of the sleep apnea, having lost 30 pounds, and that kind of stuff. But the real turning point came just within the last week, and I thought I’d share it with you briefly in case it’s any help:
Firstly, the fertile soil of it was laid down by the fact that I’ve finally again (after several years of slacking) begun to attend the daily noon Mass, across the street from where I work, for the last month or so. The gift of the Eucharist has been a great consolation of late.
Anyway, as I’ve been struggling through that darkness, I’ve been as faithful as ever (more if I am honest) in prayer, spiritual direction, and spiritual reading. As I said earlier, this period has really driven me into the arms of Jesus on all those fronts. But one morning as I was reading another small section of Pope Benedict’s book Jesus of Nazareth, and I stumbled on this little passage:
“Man lives on truth and on being loved: on being loved by the truth.”
This seemingly simple passage gave me a real jolt. It came from the fact that it immediately changed my perspective of the relationship with God on its head. We (I at least) are constantly so focused on our part in the relationship — Am I praying enough?, Am I praying correctly?, Am I doing enough?, Am I good enough?, Are my thoughts on God and his presence (or seeming lack)?, and so on. Everything we view is from our perspective and how we feel about and view Him and the relationship. It can be downright self-centered if I can accuse myself.
This passage forced me for a moment to think about the fact that He loves me (vs. how I feel about Him). That really, He is the motive force in the relationship, not I. Pope Benedict says, peace only comes from being loved. And of course it is in that being loved by the source of all love, that we then love Him and others in return. But again, it is HIS love for us that is driver here, not our efforts.
How often do we think about that? How often do recall how much we are really loved?
I know that I occasionally say it (He died for me, He gave himself up for me, etc.), but do I really ponder that and what it means? I know that I don’t do so nearly enough, if at all.
To stop and ponder that, and to try to keep it in mind first (even before my own feelings and actions if possible) was a real wake up call. If He who IS, truly loves me, what should I fear? Why should I not trust? Why should I be anything other than at peace? If He truly loves me, and I believe it, He holds me in the palm of His hand, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well…regardless of what comes.
This perspective has begun to bring me great peace of mind.
I know that the living out of this still is the challenge, but for what it’s worth, this has really been helpful for me to keep in mind. His love for me, for us, rather than focusing so much on myself and my own love for Him. If I can live within the former, the later takes care of itself.