I am currently reading Gerald G. May, The Dark Night of the Soul. Dr. May outlines spiritual transformation as described by St. Bernard of Clairvaux.
We are all born into this first stage: “love of self for one’s own sake.” If you have ever watched a child you recognize this stage. Children are all about “me, me, me.” As the child grows they learn that this way of living does not work at well. Some people never leave this stage.
Eventually, people realize that perhaps there is something greater than themselves in the world, maybe even a Higher Power. They move toward the second stage: “love of God for one’s own sake.” This stage can be still very self-centered. We worship God for what we can get. Many of the followers of Jesus were stuck in this stage during Jesus’ time on the earth. The writer of the Gospel of John notes that many people followed Jesus because of his miracles. Unfortunately, many people never move out of this stage. When they find their prayers are not answered as they want, they begin to move away from God not realizing that God is wanting them to move to the next stage.
When people realize that God is with them in their darkness, they move into the third stage: “love of God for God’s sake.” This stage is a beautiful transforming place because we fall in love with the Divine Lover.
As our love matures, we find ourselves embracing the fourth stage, “love of self for God’s sake.” We realize that we cannot add anything to gain God’s love; God’s love is completely unearned and undeserved. We call this, grace. We accept ourselves the way God accepts us.
Ronald Friesen © 2015