|The top half of the circle in the following
diagram represents us going about our ordinary life in the world, and the bottom half is
that unknown thing that we are searching for that will make us happy. Because we don't
know the answer to the question of happiness, a kind of spiritual projection takes place.
We look to the outside for an answer, and try out the solutions that the world recommends:
money, power, fame and romantic love.
Let's look at money, for example, to see how this spiritual projection works. Our mail boxes fill up with sweepstakes notices with pictures of big houses, fancy cars, and expensive foreign vacations, and the message is the more money we have the happier we will be. The odds of winning, of course, are astronomical, but there is something important we can win from those kinds of notices. All it takes is playing the following game. We have to seriously imagine what it would be like to win, and this is different than simply assuming that winning is going to transform our life. Picture yourself in that big house with ten bedrooms and six baths. Is this some vision of bliss? After the first glow wears off, who is going to live in those rooms, and who is going to clean them, and who will pay the taxes on such a monstrosity? Will we own the house, or will the house own us? Why not get servants, you say? Well, will they serve us, or will we serve them by constantly having to tell them what to do and check up on if they are doing it, and paying them well in the bargain. If we do this kind of imagining, it becomes almost a meditation that can have some good spiritual effects. It begins to free us from the kind of unconscious spiritual projection that our society habitually engages in,, and it can even be fun, as well.
We can try the same exercise by imagining driving around in that fancy red sports car we have just won, or actually being on that expensive vacation to Europe or Hawaii. Are these things really going to be radically different from driving the car we have, or from the vacations we have already gone on? The whole point is to gain a sense of how our deep inner drive for happiness is constantly coming out of our own hearts and fastening to the people and things around us.
No where is this more evident than in the search for romantic love. That other person is supposed to answer the question of our own psychological wholeness. But it goes beyond that. They are supposed to make us happy and give our life some overall meaning. It is not as if these expectations are always voiced, or even fully conscious, but they can still have a powerful effect on our closest relationships. If our life is not as meaningful as it should be, we look to our spouse or to our children and begin to feel that they have somehow failed us. This can place a tremendous pressure on a marriage. There is no man or woman in this world, no matter how wonderful they are, that can answer our own personal need for meaning. It is as if we have an infinite hunger in our heart that transcends the finite dimensions of the people around us, and most certainly goes far beyond any material thing. This is why we are treated to the sad spectacle of the rich who are driven to try to become richer and richer, and the famous who end up feeling lonely and put-upon, and the glamorous who wonder if people like them for themselves. They, like all of us, are looking outside to find what only can be found within.
Inner marriage in a psychological sense meant going on the road to individuation in order to become whole within ourselves. Inner marriage in a spiritual sense means going on the road that leads to union with God, and finding our ultimate happiness and meaning in Him. Once again, it would be a mistake to imagine that this inner journey to God was somehow opposed to being married. Let us put it more strongly. It is probably another indication of our fallen state that we tend to think that human love with all its romance and sexuality is the area that is farthest removed from our spiritual lives. Actually, the opposite is meant to be true. In the original plan of God the adventure and mystery of loving each other was to be the way we were to come to understand that our relationship with God was one not simply of creature to creator, or servant to master, but beloved to lover. Even the celibate Christian saints and mystics, when they wanted to describe the heights of mystical union with God, used images and symbols drawn from human love and marriage.
Perhaps we have had flashes of insight of why this would be so. Have we ever had one of those moments where we look at our spouse or our children and got a glimpse of what the love of God for us must be like? These kinds of moments must have abounded in that original state of marriage. Far from the other person taking us away from God, we would have seen the light of God's love aglow in them, and the closer we drew to them, the brighter that light would have shown. We wouldn't even have imagined that loving our spouse as fully as possible could somehow be an obstacle to loving God. How can we regain some of that original magic? Paradoxically, we have to look within and work at going on that inner journey that leads to God, and that, in turn, will transform our relationship with our spouse.
The Spiritual Inner Marriage
The heart of this spiritual inner marriage is prayer. But as soon as we hear the word prayer we immediately think of saying prayers that somehow float off into the void above us and scarcely cause a ripple in that silence. But the heart of prayer has nothing to do with this. It is the desire to enter into loving union with the person we love. It is as if in having a human lover in our spouse who truly cares for us, becomes one with us, and shares all that he or she has with us, we suddenly saw how much greater and more wonderful it must be to have a divine lover who wishes to do the same. If we look at the life of prayer in this way, it doesn't demand long periods repeating someone else's words, but rather, an open and loving heart by which we reach out to God in the moments of our day. At various moments we simply give ourselves over to loving God and being open to receive God's love in return. That is the heart of the spiritual life, and it is our spouse who is meant to be the person who encourages us in that love. Then our spouse becomes our spiritual companion on the road to union with God that we are both called to go on, and that spiritual companionship can transform our marriage.
What is the secret of the inner spiritual marriage we are meant to have with our spouse? It is that we are called to this love affair with God in and through the love we have for our own spouse. We no longer look to our spouse for the kind of meaning that only God can give, and yet, the more we turn to God, the more we will become one with our spouse, as well.
as it was meant to be
Marriage, the fall, and the coming of Christ
Marriage and the interior life