What person or thing do you love the most in your life? What is the one person or thing that, if you took it away, everything else would crumble? This is the center of your life, the one principle upon which all other moral principles and meaningful values are based.
I only bring this up because it is important for my own growth in the Life of Christ within me. You see, there is no room for anyone else as the center of my life. There is only one because God is One. The secular world would place family, spouse, mother or father as the center. At one time, so did I, until I realized that I was only thinking of the limited ways of the world. It does make sense to place your spouse as the most important thing or person in your life if you live in two universes (physical and mental).
As one who can only aspire to be a Lay Cistercian, I admit that I do not place my spouse or even family as my center. I do that because I have found something deeper about love than human love. That is not to say that I don’t love my wife and daughter. I have come to see layers of love, far greater and deeper than I had ever imagined. I experienced the dark side of love, that which says you love someone, even if they can’t or won’t love back, or have some form of mental health issues or alcohol or drug dependence. Jesus gave us a hint, when he told his disciples, (Luke 6:32) “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.”
Ironically, when you place Christ as your center (my center is Phil 2:5), all else follows. The words of the Master guide us in growing from self to God, “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you besides.” The best way to love our neighbor is to love God first with all our heart, our mind, and our strength. It takes a lifetime of experiences to learn that seeking God has been right in front of my nose every day.
I must tell you, I had trouble with letting go of my perceptions of what love should be. I think this is due to my taking the meaning from what this world says about love and the priorities of relationship. This is another example of the difference between what the world thinks and what Christ says we should do. Placing God first means everything else is number two. Adam and Eve didn’t get it and placed God second and themselves first. What seems like a no-brainer, is giving up part of your independence to affirm dependence on God, or, put another way, Thy Will Be Done.
That in all things, may God be glorified, –St. Benedict