Yesterday morning I had a little insight that started with this: I notice that in my meditation I always feel like I don’t want God as much as I should. If I wanted God more, it surely wouldn’t be so hard to focus in my meditations. I would find concentrating on God way more interesting than thinking about all the trivial things that tend to cross my mind.
Then, along with that noticing, comes a subtle sense of guilt. Clearly, my lack of desire is a statement about my caliber as a spiritual seeker. And this isn’t entirely false. After all, The Song of Prayer lists two measures of how high we are on the spiritual ladder: 1) our ability to join with others and 2) our desire for God (as opposed to things of the world).
Then, in response to the lack of desire and the guilt, I try to work up more desire for God. I remind myself of how inconceivably loving and perfect God is, such that if I were in His Presence, I would have no problem with desiring Him.
I don’t know if any of this sounds familiar to you, but here’s my insight. There is this wonderful teaching in the Course that says that at the base of our being is an overpowering attraction to God that we are powerless to change. It’s just part of our nature. It’s so powerful that it scares the hell out of us. There are so many lines about this that I did a class on it once. It’s an important Course teaching.
The reason we don’t feel this pull, and instead seem disinterested, doubtful, or even downright skeptical, is, Jesus once says, because of “reaction formation.”
The reason is not that you distantiate [mentally distance yourself], doubt, or cannot believe. It is more of a reaction formation against a pull which you both recognize is so intense that you are afraid that you will be uprooted.
Reaction formation is where you are afraid of some tendency in you, and in order to protect yourself from it, you put on a show of having the opposite tendency. So the man who is scared of his own homosexual tendencies will adopt the pose of being ever so manly and hating gays. Jesus is saying that our stance of mentally standing apart from God in a state of doubt and disbelief—a stance we are probably all-too familiar with—is actually an artificial pose, the purpose of which is to protect us against the pull of God, a pull so intense we are afraid we’ll be uprooted.
I think that is a brilliant idea, in light of which a different response to my lack of desire presented itself:
1. Realize the lack of desire is artificial. It’s not how I really feel. My real feeling is that of having an irresistible pull toward God. (Jesus called it “the irresistible attraction.”)
2. Don’t feel guilty over something in me that is not genuine, that is not the way I really am.
3. Don’t try to solve the lack of desire by manufacturing a weak version of my true desire. This is a halfway solution, in that it does bring desire for God in, but it also subtly protects against the real desire by putting in its place something weak that is under my control. You might call it a very subtle form of reaction formation.
4. Instead, focus on yielding to the real pull, the one that is unlimited and that I have no control over. (As a result, I spent the day repeating the line “Yield to the pull.”)
As I thought about that last point, I realized that the “pull of God,” as Jesus calls it, has taken many forms in my life. One of them is a genuine love for God, but there are many others, including my love of truth. All of them act like real drives, which means they can’t just be set aside. If I don’t go with them, a tension mounts as they cry out for fulfillment. They can’t be turned off—there’s no off-switch. So I see a lot of evidence that the pull is there. Maybe, then, the Course is right that I don’t lack the desire for God, but that the real problem is that I fear the desire I already have.
It’s a very different way to conceptualize both the problem and the solution, isn’t it?
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P.S. After posting this, I just went to read the Urtext, picking up where I had left off a few days back. The very first words I read were these:
Let us ask the Father in my name to keep you mindful of His love for you and yours for Him. He has never failed to answer this request, because it asks only for what He has already willed.
So I can ask God to keep me mindful of my love for Him. That sounds like an excellent method to use.