Loving a Cipher

I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways (Psalm 119:15)

In my reading and experience in counselling, the saddest times are when people realize that what they had called love for someone else had been simply their need to love something, not really a love for the thing loved. In essence, the object of their love is nothing but a cipher; an empty vessel they can pour their affections into.

The result is that while they do nice things for the person, their expressions of love are based on what they themselves desire to give as love, not really what the other person would need to actually be loved. The result is that they then get frustrated when the other person doesn’t react to the love their showing… because all this time there wasn’t love of another person being shown, but the need to love……. something, anything. The other person wasn’t important.

This seems less selfish than at least the habit of humans to love the reflection of themselves in someone else, and hate whatever does not reflect them, but I’m not so sure. At least the “selfish” love actually reacts to something in the object of affection (if only because it reaffirms the lover).

I think this may also be part of what happens to Christians in some ways that they “love” God. C.S. Lewis hits on the point when he says:

“For my own part, I tend to find the doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and I rather expect the same experience may await many others. I believe that many who find that “nothing happens” when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find their heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand” (C.S. Lewis,”On the reading of Old Books” in God in the Dock, 205)

The reason for this difference is, I think, a simple one. In much devotional literature, there is an assumption that one has a close and real relationship with the God of the universe. However, we read devotional literature in the desire to actually strengthen that relationship, not because the relationship is already strong. Devotional literature often has trouble moving us to worship, because it so rarely moves us beyond the cipher-god of our own creation to a meditation on the real God. Heavy theology does just that, because it is only in the harder to understand ideas and revelations that our self-centered ideas of God and how He should be loved are questioned, and as a result where we can be moved to see God for who He really is.

The result of that vision for a heart renewed by the Holy Spirit, will always be worship.

Author: Stephen Dawe

Steve is a part-time vocational elder Calvary Baptist Church, St. John's as well as a full-time student at Memorial University of Newfoundland, in the Religious Studies Department.