Easter - 2018

Monday, January 21, 2013

Bernard of Claivaux - "Loving Self for God's Sake"

A few months ago Park Chapel leadership hosted a counseling seminar that taught that all feelings/emotions are preceded by thought. The point was that if we program and work on our thoughts our feelings/emotion will follow. He also taught that emotions were caused by our thoughts and that we acted on our emotions and not by our thoughts. Thus, the diagram is as follows:

     Thoughts to -----> Emotions to -------> Actions = positive or negative results

Let me start by pointing out that I think this may be true 60% of the time, but I will never advocate that it would be the norm beyond that. There are times that we feel and then think. I agree that it is possible to program the mind with habits and disciplines so that thought might influence emotion, but that feelings come after thoughts is not an absolute...

UNLESS...we add the dimension of "Spirit" or as Bernard of Clairvaux labels, "love" to the beginning of the equation. Thus, the equation would change with the new variable added would be this:

    Spirit to -----> Thoughts to -----> Emotions to -------> Actions = positive results

The variable of the Spirit or the Holy Spirit added to the equation grants a "loving" aspect to our living. God's Spirit changes the result every time. Bernard discusses how "true love does not seek its own interest." Thus the stages are to first, "love self for self's sake," second to, "love God for self's sake," third to, "love God for God's sake," and fourth to, "love self for God's sake." It is this fourth stage that compels us to strive and work through the other stages. It is also a reality that we live the vast majority of our mature Christian existence in the third stage of loving God because God deserves our love. Yet, there is occasion that the fourth stage of loving our self for God's sake is achieved and the result is the completion of the second equation mentioned above at the highest level.

I like to think of this fourth stage as when the Spirit jumps over thought and directly touches the emotion. It is the pure essence of God's will in our prayer and the pure delight that satisfies the soul. These moments are events that catch us, take our breath away, and then reveal God's perfection in the here and now. It is hard to explain in words but I can describe it as joy, contentment, and memory all in one essential event that may last for hours but seems like just a few seconds.

The first time this happened to me, I was hiking in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in October. I came to a bend and clearing as I was praying and meditating when the foliage and cascade was in full roar of Fall color. It was a God moment of loving self for God's sake. Another time was when I held our first born child when he was about three months old. His eyes and mine were locked for what seemed like just a few moments that were truly hours. Another time, was when I was in prayer for our third child that was dying from heart complications. He eventually went to heaven, but I cherish that time when God was ministering and loving on me in groans and whispers. There are many times these are moments that are hard and difficult, yet in each occasion of this fourth stage I have been blessed with God returns satisfaction, contentment, and joy.

These times do not happen as often as I would like, but when they come it is truly a monumental occasion that I never forget. The moments that we are "entirely transfused into the will of God" are beyond my feeble words, but each event truly influences that equation of proactive living.

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