The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.
Five general principles of discernment of God’s will that apply to all questions about it, and therefore to our question too, are the following:
1. Always begin with data, with what we know for sure. Judge the unknown by the known, the uncertain by the certain. Adam and Eve neglected that principle in Eden and ignored God’s clear command and warning for the devil’s promised pig in a poke.
2. Let your heart educate your mind. Let your love of God educate your reason in discerning his will. Jesus teaches this principle in John 7:17 to the Pharisees. (Would that certain Scripture scholars today would heed it!) They were asking how they could interpret his words, and he gave them the first principle of hermeneutics (the science of interpretation): “If your will were to do the will of my Father, you would understand my teaching.” The saints understand the Bible better than the theologians, because they understand its primary author, God, by loving him with their whole heart and their whole mind.
3. Have a soft heart but a hard head. We should be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves,” sharp as a fox in thought but loyal as a dog in will and deed. Soft-heartedness does not excuse soft-headedness, and hard-headedness does not excuse hard-heartedness. In our hearts we should be “bleeding-heart liberals” and in our heads “stuck-in-the-mud conservatives.”
4. All God’s signs should line up, by a kind of trigonometry. There are at least seven such signs: (1) Scripture, (2) church teaching, (3) human reason (which God created), (4) the appropriate situation, or circumstances (which he controls by his providence), (5) conscience, our innate sense of right and wrong, (6) our individual personal bent or desire or instincts, and (7) prayer. Test your choice by holding it up before God’s face. If one of these seven voices says no, don’t do it. If none say no, do it.
5. Look for the fruits of the spirit, especially the first three: love, joy, and peace. If we are angry and anxious and worried, loveless and joyless and peaceless, we have no right to say we are sure of being securely in God’s will. Discernment itself should not be a stiff, brittle, anxious thing, but—since it too is part of God’s will for our lives—loving and joyful and peace-filled, more like a game than a war, more like writing love letters than taking final exams.
“Lord of the World…I do not beg you to reveal to me the secret of your ways – I could not bear it. But show me one thing; show it to me more clearly and more deeply; show me what this, that which is happening at this very moment, means to me, what it demands of me, what you, Lord of the World, are telling me by way of it.” [Rabbi Levi Yitzhak]
The Buddha’s Brain: What Modern Science Is Revealing About the Ancient Practice of Meditation was the theme of an enlightening evening with Dr. Richard Davidson and Matthieu Ricard, moderated by Krista Tippett. (80 Minutes audio)
The truth is that all search for knowledge is essentially a form of prayer. The scientific observer of Nature is a kind of mystic seeker in the act of prayer. Although at present he follows only the footprints of the musk-deer, and thus modestly limits the method of his quest, his thirst for knowledge is eventually sure to lead him to the point where the scent of the musk-gland is a better guide than the footprints of the deer. This alone will add to his power over Nature and give him that vision of the total-infinite which philosophy seeks but cannot find. Vision without power does bring moral elevation but cannot give a lasting culture. Power without vision tends to become destructive and inhuman. Both must combine for the spiritual expansion of humanity.
The real object of prayer, however, is better achieved when the act of prayer becomes congregational. The spirit of all true prayer is social. Even the hermit abandons the society of men in the hope of finding, in a solitary abode, the fellowship of God. A congregation is an association of men who, animated by the same aspiration, concentrate themselves on a single object and open up their inner selves to the working of a single impulse. It is a psychological truth that association multiplies the normal man.s power of perception, deepens his emotion, and dynamizes his will to a degree unknown to him in the privacy of his individuality. Indeed, regarded as a psychological phenomenon, prayer is still a mystery; for psychology has not yet discovered the laws relating to the enhancement of human sensibility in a state of association.
- Muhammad Iqbal
A perfect creator builds in a mechanism that motivates us to learn about our relationship with the creator. We find our selves filled with desire to know perfect order, perfect love, perfect pleasure, perfect beauty, and we constantly strive to learn more, experience more, and become one with this perfection.
[…] we find ourselves on a constant search for the most beautiful, the most sensual, the most inspiring, the most enlightening, or the most creative human we can find. Notice that when we are in full rapture with such a human we often call them an “angel”, or a god or goddess, or place them on a pedestal and sometimes declare that we “cannot go on living without them”; because if they leave us it is as if our very reason for life goes with them. I do not believe this feeling is unwarranted, only misunderstood.
In reality no human can ever be there or produce for us all the time every time, yet this is what we want, ask for, and even give in promise to each other. No human can love us perfectly, yet the craving for this remains. No human can provide us with perfect happiness or pleasure, yet this too we seek. I suspect that when we live without a healthy sense of spiritual awareness or direction, we use each other to fulfill these desires which were meant to lead us to greater understanding of ourselves and our spiritual nature.
Don’t surrender your loneliness
Let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you
As few human
Or even divine ingredients can.
Something missing in my heart tonight
Has made my eyes so soft,
My need of God
—Shams al-Din Hafiz
In Zen literature the word intimacy is often used as a synonym for enlightenment. In the classical Zen enlightenment stories, a monk or a nun is reduced simultaneously to tears and laughter as he or she suddenly recognizes that nothing in this world is separate, that each and every thing, including one’s own self, is nothing but the whole, and that the whole is nothing but the self. What are such stories telling us if not that love is much wider and deeper than an emotion? Love is the fruition of, the true shape of, one’s self and all that is.
- Norman Fischer, Taking Our Places: The Buddhist Path to Truly Growing Up
In the end these things matter most: How well did you love? How fully did you love? How deeply did you learn to let go?
- Siddhartha Gautama
Hereto I adjoin a parable. There were a certain man and wife; the woman by accident lost an eye, and was sorely troubled thereat. Her husband then said to her, “Wife, why are you troubled? “She answered, “It is not the loss of my eye that troubles me, but the thought that you may love me less on account of that loss.” He said, “I love you all the same.” Not long after he put one of his own eyes out, and came to his wife and said, “Wife, that you may believe I love you, I have made myself like you: I, too, now, have only one eye.” So men could hardly believe that God loved them till God put one of His eyes out, that is took upon Himself human nature, and was made man.
- Meister Eckhart’s Sermons, THE ANGEL’S GREETING
To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again.
― Pema Chödrön
HOW HUMBLE IS GOD
God is the tree in the forests that
allows itself to die and will not defend itself in front of those
with the ax, not wanting to cause them
And God is the earth that will allow itself to
be deformed by man’s tools, but He cries; yes, God cries,
but only in…