Do you have beloveds in your life? Lesser loves? Idols? For many years I have struggled with beloveds -- human loves -- that I have not been able to free myself from. I could not understand their purpose in my life.
One day last summer, I heard God speak the words “They are the School of Love.” I had no understanding of this so I set it aside. I couldn't even really comprehend it, as I thought idols were embarrassing sins that I couldn't let go of. His words made no sense to me.
But in nearly every confession that followed, the priests persistently drove home a point whenever I confessed the sin: God is yearning for deeper intimacy with you, and you are yearning for deeper intimacy with Him -- it is clear from how you confess your sins. I still felt clueless. I was focused on the wrong thing: getting rid of the sin vs. falling more in the love with the Beloved which inevitably gets rid of the sin.
Then one day recently, I was reading a book in preparation for an upcoming spiritual direction training week, and came to a chapter on Love Mysticism in the spiritual life. Suddenly, what God spoke and my struggle with human beloveds for so many years finally made sense. I could see what God was doing, and the words “School of Love” again came to me.
“Thy 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, and 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 love is not the Divine Beloved, we will eventually be called to forgive them for not being able to be God for us. The infatuation stage of relationship typically idolizes and exalts the beloved, and although we do not intend to burden our human beloveds with these Godlike projections, the nature of desire causes us to do so. When we outgrow this stage of the relationship, these projections dissolve. Redirecting them toward God helps us emerge from illusion and release our lovers from a burden they cannot bear… Often addictive, disordered, or love crazy situations are divine-human intimacy wanting to happen.” -- Janet Ruffing in Spiritual Direction, Beyond the Beginnings
This idol, this human love that I want to be free from, is serving God’s purpose on the path of Love Mysticism. It is directing me toward Divine Love, stirring yearning for that love in my heart, and challenging me to deeper intimacy and closeness with God.
The mention of forgiveness especially struck me in this passage. Several times the word “forgive” has come up recently. Inevitably all my human loves have ended in hurt and forsakenness. It reminds me to forgive the hurt in those human loves that were never supposed to be fully Divine Love.
How often I have fallen into the trap of hoping those human loves would be like Divine Love. I think we all long for a physical Jesus in our lives who never abandons or forsakes us, is present to our innermost thoughts and feelings, and loves us for who we are.
So it seems that idols are a pathway to Divine Love. An unavoidable pathway to deeper intimacy with God, and we only become free of them, when we accept the divine intimacy and union that the Lord wants to have each moment with us.
May I continue learning via "The School of Love."