Lesson 2: God's Love
God Needs You
For it is not by chance that any individual soul enters, but that God hath need of thee at this time. They, then, who begin to pity themselves or wonder what it is all about, lose the real purpose of love: that ye may make manifest the love He hath chosen to give thee. (5149-1)
The concept of a God that is self-limiting for the sake of relationship may be too expansive for those with a more traditional view of the divine as transcendent and all-powerful.
Imagine a creation that is incomplete and requires assistance from the created. Imagine a world where God needs human cooperation to fulfill its purpose.
If you have ever raised or trained a child, this dynamic will probably be familiar. A child’s development blossoms when the child feels genuinely needed. The sense of participation and accomplishment builds character and creates bonding with the adult.
It is no wonder that the parent/child relationship is so often used as a metaphor for the relationship of God to souls – as a parent and child. How wise that God has left something for us to do in this vast creation – some task that only we can do.
Application: Reflect on your concept of God. Is it expansive enough to include a God that needs? Do you feel needed by God? Does doing the will of God enhance your sense of relationship with the Divine?
A God That Suffers
… the waywardness of each soul bring sorrow to the Father of Fathers, the God that is ONE. For, as each soul is as a corpuscle in the body of God, so does the soul that sinneth bring sorrow to the Father. (3028-1)
All that God is and does will be for the sake of the relationship… This free act of self-limitation, taken entirely at the divine initiative for the sake of the relationship, might be described as a divine kenosis, a self-emptying, an act of self-sacrifice. The very act of creation thus might be called the beginning of the passion of God. God has so entered into the world that God cannot but be affected by its life … God cannot but suffer, and in manifold ways. (Terence Fretheim – The Suffering God)
If a concept of a God that needs was a challenge, then pondering a God that suffers will probably be an even greater test of your intellectual flexibility. And yet, the holy scriptures of Judaism and Christianity, and the theological ponderings of many great thinkers have encompassed such thoughts.
To put it bluntly, can your concept God include divinity that sacrifices and suffers for the opportunity of relationship? Can your image of the Divine integrate the paradoxical idea that the power of God is manifested through such apparent weakness?
Of course, such wondering can be attributed to anthropomorphic projection. We have encountered this viewpoint previously when exploring the “concept of God” and “God’s manifestation in the earth.” Is it simply a matter of humans projecting their own suffering onto God? Perhaps.
Some theologians respond by noting that as above, so below. Everything in creation is an expression of spiritual forces – downward causation, as it were. Just as souls are created in God’s image, so all of creation is a reflection of the mind of God. Is there room within the Divine mind for suffering? Does relationship require sacrifice and presuppose suffering at some level, in some manner?
Or is suffering strictly a human experience caused by patterns of desire – clinging, craving, and attachment – as Buddha surmised?
Application: Invest a period of meditation or deep reflection on the concept of God as loving companion, willing to sacrifice and suffer to be in relationship with you. Is there room in your concept of God for such divinity? Does such reflection affect your sense of God’s love for you?
Experiencing God's Love
Forgive as ye would be forgiven. Learn, in deed and in truth, the great commandment; that if ye would know the truth which would make thee free, ye must love thy fellow man as ye would have thy Father, thy God love thee. (2403-1)
The central theme of the search for God is relationship. Souls exist to be in relationship – with God and with others, who are an expression of God. We have considered this concept in almost every lesson thus far and especially in the sections on fellowship and being in God’s presence.
Companionship with the divine is an ongoing process of relationship building. This would be a good time to take stock of loving relationship. Is there fellowship with God in the midst of life? Do you take God with you in your daily activities? Do you have a sense of the abiding presence of the divine whenever your consciousness focuses in that direction?
In particular, do you have a sense of God’s love? Whether in deep meditation or as you go about the activities of life, do you bask in God’s love as you might on the first warm, sunny afternoon of spring after a frigid winter?
God’s love makes no demands nor does it impose in any way. Your will is not violated. You always have the choice to accept or reject the experience of God’s love.
To be sure, there are times when you may feel unworthy of love. There are times when God’s presence seems absent. In the extreme, this has been called the “dark night of the soul.” And yet, even then, look around for the opportunity to experience God’s love in others. Try expressing even a tiny bit of divine love to another person, and feel the love of God within, regardless of how the other responds. Remember, each has will – each can choose how to respond to love.
Application: Reflect on these deep questions and assess your progress at this point in your journey. Resolve within your being to experience God’s love in the quietness of attunement and in the activities of daily living.