Love That Is Disordered

Have there been times in your life when you’ve chosen your own benefit at the expense of others? 

I was spending a few days at an event with colleagues.  After breakfast, a long-time friend pulled me aside to talk.  She quietly told me that she wanted to share something personal and asked that I keep it confidential.  I assured her that the information would go no further.  To my dismay, she shared that she had recently been diagnosed with a chronic, crippling illness.  While the prognosis wasn’t good, her doctor explained that because the diagnosis was made early, treatment would likely extend her quality of life for many years.  She also said that she was only telling me and one other colleague she considered a friend. I hugged my friend and let her know she had my support and that I’d be available should she want a listening ear.  We then went to the next scheduled event.

Later that day at lunch, I sat at a table with some people I knew.  My friend who shared the news of her illness was not there.  But the other person she told was at the same table.  Over dessert, this woman said to the group, “There’s something I have to share with you but please keep it quiet.  So-and-so is very ill and it doesn’t look good.”  The gossip began.

When we left the table, I stopped the woman who shared the news and told her that I was aware the she and I were both given that information in confidence.  I asked why she shared it.  She replied, “The others would want to know, so I decided to tell them.”  She seemed to have no recognition that she betrayed a friend.

In his writings, St. Augustine, the fifth century theologian of the Christian tradition, addressed what he called disordered love.  It’s a great term and simply refers to love that is out of order or wrongly prioritized.  The woman who gossiped and broke an agreed-to confidence  loved the power and influence of gossip more than she loved her friend.  Rather than being faithful to her friend, she chose to betray her friend by sharing information so as to appear “in the know.”

Disordered love seems to characterize many things that occur in our society today.  Many people love greed more than honesty and transparency.  This was the basis of the mortgage crisis of 2009.  Other people love their careers more than their spouses or children.  This leads to broken relationships.  Many people love pleasure and comfort more than responding to the needs of others. This results in growing poverty and homelessness.  It’s not that making money, having comfort, and pursuing a career are wrong.  But when our love of things is out of order, people are hurt.

Augustine believed that sin was essentially disordered love.  As is evident from the examples I gave, disordered love is rooted in individuals having their priorities out of balance.  The result of an individual’s disordered love is communal and social:  it can impact loved ones and friends and, when others share the same misprioritizing of things, can impact societies, economies, and policies.

Love is properly ordered when people are grounded in the reality of who they are and live in right-relationships with others.  I find that being properly grounded in who we are is the primary task of spiritual practice.  Time in prayer and meditation pulls us away from all the clutter of our days and into the simple reality of being people created in the Divine Image.  It’s from that place that we can relate to others in a properly ordered sense of love.

When we learn to spend time regularly, to sit in silent prayer and meditation, we are better able to let go of ambitions that result in disordered love.  Instead, we embrace with humility who we are, experience great peace within us, grow to respect others, and move toward respectful relationships with people in our lives.

What are ways that regular spiritual practice can help you live in right-relationship with yourself and others?

 

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© 2017, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.

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Moving Deeper into Prayer

How do you conceive or understand prayer?

Many of us understand prayer in terms of words:   we ask for things.  Whether the prayer is to God or the Universe, we make requests for something we believe to be good or to avoid what we believe to be bad.  This is sometimes called intercessory prayer.  But most people simply know it as prayer.

I think this kind of prayer makes sense for children.  To help a child understand prayer, prayer could be explained as talking to God.  From this perspective, it makes sense to teach a child to say a prayer of thanks before meals or to say prayers at bedtime.

Another common form of prayer found in Evangelical churches is praise.  Choruses that repeat words of praise or that express, “Glory to God!” and similar sentiments are often repeated.  This, along with prayers of intercession, is often the primary expressions of prayer.

If prayer has something to do with talking to God, communicating with the Divine, or being in a relationship with the Holy, it seems to me that always asking for things or repeatedly saying, “You’re great!” is a bit off base.  Think about a friend who only asks for favors and is always saying what a great person you are.  What kind of friendship is that?

The Hebrew Scriptures use a very different image of prayer than we do.  In the writings of the prophets and the wisdom literature, our relationship with the Divine is often presented as a relationship between lovers.  What is it that young lovers do?  They think about each other all day.  They anticipate being with each other.  They look for opportunities to spend time together and do most everything together.  They can’t seem to separate themselves from each other. Even in the midst of life’s disappointments and challenges, the Hebrew Scriptures present us with angry rants by the prophets — the tone of which is reminiscent of quarrelling lovers.

What about long-time lovers, married couples in the senior years of life?  They know each other so well that they no longer need words to communicate.  Instead, they recognize what’s happening for the other because they’ve grown so close to each other.

Prayer is a channel that opens us to be with the Divine and nurtures our relationship with the Holy One.  At times, that relationship may be like that of young lovers who just can’t get enough of each other.  At other times, the relationship may be more like the older couple who seem to think together as one.

If the words of your prayers no longer draw you into a closer relationship with the Divine, with an awareness of deep connection of Emmanuel, the God who is with us, then it’s probably time to let go of the words and learn to pray differently.  Learning to experience awe, wonder, a deep abiding peace or joy at the presence of the Divine will draw you to greater intimacy with the One who is at the center of your being.

As you begin a new year, how can you move more deeply into prayer?

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© 2017, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.

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Epiphany Carol

As the New Year begins, and the Twelve Days of Christmas come to culmination on Epiphany, I thought I’d simply share a poem by Thomas Merton. 

In case this is not familiar to you, Epiphany ends the twelve days of Christmas and  is traditionally observed among Christians on January 6.  This holiday marks the arrival of the magi, the astrologers, who followed a star to find Jesus, bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  This day symbolizes the manifestation of the light of Divine Presence for people of the world.

I invite you to take time to allow the images of this poem dance within you.

Epiphany Carol by Thomas Merton

Flocks feed by darkness with a noise of whispers,
In the dry grass of pastures,
And lull the solemn night with their weak bells.

The little towns upon the rocky hills
Look down as meek as children:
Because they have seen come this holy time.

God’s glory, now, is kindled gentler than low candlelight
Under the rafters of a barn:
Eternal Peace is sleeping in the hay,
And Wisdom’s born in secret in a straw-roofed stable.

And O! Make holy music in the stars, you happy angels.
You shepherds, gather on the hill.
Look up, you timid flocks, where the three kings
Are coming through the wintry trees;

While we unnumbered children of the wicked centuries
Come after with our penances and prayers,
And lay them down in the sweet-smelling hay
Beside the wise men’s golden jars.

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© 2017, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.

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