So I lied, my last post was not my last for the summer. I will likely post periodically but with less regularity during the summer. There, I apologize to anyone who felt betrayed. Now for something completely different.
Its fun to watch a new Christian. They are so excited and passionate about Christ, telling other people about the change that has taken place and displaying outwardly their overflowing joy. It makes a sad contrast with those around them who have been Christians for sometime and who have none of that overflowing passion for Christ. I have observed many mature Christians beating themselves up this the lack of passion. They assume that there must be something wrong with their faith because they are not as excited as an immature Christian. Some put a lot of effort into trying to regain the excitement they first had when accepting Christ or experienced at a retreat. If I may I want to suggest that this lack is not all that bad. An illustration from marriage with make this clear.
It is usually easy to spot the difference between a couple who is nearing marriage and one that has been marriage for several years. The couple who is looking forward to marriage is engrossed with each other, finding it hard to get enough of each other. In the married couple the passion is not so visible. They have faced the hard realities of daily life together that they may have missed in the excitement of dating and now are having to deal with. If you look at what the married couple has discovered about each other by living together you might be amazed at the love they have. Still, should they be displaying their love like the couple looking forward to marriage. I don’t think so. Their love has matured from that state called, “being in love.” Imagine staying in “in love” forever. The emotional roller coasters of ups and down. Passion is powerful, but it can also also be fickle. Not only would it burn you out, but it would keep the relationship from being tried and stretched, the only way it can grow deeper.
That first passion which comes when a person accepts Christ or a significant spiritual “high” is great to experience and to watch in someone else. It also helps to propel a person past the initial obstacles that might get in their way. In The Dark Night of the Soul St. John of the Cross uses the metaphor of weaning for what comes next in God’s plan for the baby Christian.
For sometime they have been feeding on sweet milk, but to grown they need to move to solid food. He removes Himself in what can be a bewildering experience. The feeling of God’s closeness and the excitement that existed before is gone. God is trying to move the the young Christian to something better and more solid. He wants to see if they will continue to seek after Him now that their motivation of passion is gone.
The temptation is huge here for Christians to try to re-ignite the feelings that they had before. Something feels to be obviously wrong, so they try to find that spiritual high which they felt before. They can spend so much time trying to get that high back that they miss the opportunity God has given them to grow, to pursue him when the passion is gone because passion never lasts forever. Who would stay married if they were only married as long as the passion which they experience on their honeymoon was still their. Sadly a many couples divorce because of this and Christians don’t grow.
Passion is a wonderful thing, a gift from God. However, it is just that, a gift. God never wants us to love the gifts he gives more than Himself and He will take them away in need be. For someone who is more often duty driven than emotion driven it must not be forgotten that in the end He will give us unlimited joy, but it will be because we have come to love Him most of all.
Actually for Christian mystics the dreadful experience of feeling that God is distant and lacking passion (The Dark Night of the Soul or Senses) which comes from being a Christian was valued. Is was a sign that God was at work. They recognized that it potentially could last for years and occur multiple times in someone’s life as God was progressively purifying them of all loves, but Him. The Christian walk is more often one of the valleys and plains, than the mountain top experiences. The disciples must have been a little confused when Jesus left them. It was only by his leaving that something better could come.
If I have errored in this post it is towards the side of making Christianity appear to be too much of a dry duty. I must also confess that when the Dark Night of the Soul ends and depression begins is unclear to me. Unfortunately, the science at that time did no have the understanding of the cause of depression that we have now. I’ve yet to know of a book which deals with this well. If I could synthesize what I am trying to say it is to prize the passion and excitement which comes from being a Christian, but don’t be dismayed if it disappears. God may be offering you a chance to experience something even better. Do not tried to hide your emotions from God or fake a smile before Him. He sees right through it. Furthermore, He has created people with a variety of personalities and knows those who He has made more bubbly and those who He has created more solemn. We approach Him and He approaches us where we are at, not where someone else is at.