Updated: Jul 22, 2022
I've currently been talking with an ex-girlfriend who has been struggling with dryness in her new relationship. She mentions how she should be feeling this love for him and that he is doing his best to love her back, but she can't connect on a deeper level. I know I have felt this way about many of the women I have been courting. Rationally, there shouldn't be anything stopping me from delighting in the company of these women. However, while my brain is on board for pursuing these women, my heart just isn't there. I used to dismiss this talk in a few women who turned me down saying, "I just don't feel that spark." I thought this was nonsense. If we would make a good couple rationally then why couldn't our intuition get on board? On the other hand, I have felt a deep love for women who I thought things wouldn't work out rationally. My intuition was going in a completely different direction to what I was told made a successful couple. Why was this the case? Why couldn't there be this spark with rationally good relationships but there is with rationally poor relationships?
This same dryness is also something I have been experiencing with my prayer life. I pray every day, but it feels mechanical. Like I'm just going through the motions rather than really connecting with God and His Love. I even pray that my prayers won't be so mechanical and that I can really connect with God. Nothing happens. It makes no sense. If I am earnestly seeking God's Love then why can't I feel it? It doesn't make sense rationally.
These two phenomena led me to think that there might be a connection between dryness in the prayer life and the dryness in the spark of love in relationships. This isn't unreasonable since the aim of prayer is to unite oneself with the love and grace of God. However, God loves us unconditionally, whereas people love us for a complex web of reasons that is difficult to untangle. However, while these loves are different in some respects, they are very similar in others.
Love with both God and people seems to progress in a similar way. First, you must understand what the other person is. This doesn't mean knowing that they are a human or they are a male or female. This is about knowing the superficial information that you would learn about a colleague or the basic knowledge about what God is. The second step is to go beyond understanding to knowing. Here you learn who they are. You go deeper, knowing their desires, their dispositions, their mindset and hidden beliefs. You are descending into their soul to know who they are and what makes them unique. This stage can be difficult for many people because they don't even understand this themselves or know how to express these much deeper things. They may not be fully open to wanting to share this side of themselves as it makes them extremely vulnerable. However, God is infinitely deep and to know Him is an impossible task. Even to scratch the surface is to know love in ways much deeper than a man can ever go by himself. Love here then transitions to the third stage of internalisation. You go from rational knowledge to an internal love through a deeper reflection of their soul impressing itself upon your soul. Love is not just acknowledged in thought but through action and delight from the understanding of their deeper traits. You have gone from willing to know them, to willing the greatest good for them. This step can be complicated because many people skip over the second step to this stage by filling in the gaps with their own fantasies about who the other person is. These fantasies are often shattered when they later realise that these delusions don't reflect the person they love at all and it hurts their ability to love them for who they really are. With God, He impresses His nature on our souls through His grace. We open ourselves to this process by ridding ourselves of sin. Lastly, the final stage is contemplative love. In this stage, your soul is so filled with the love for the other that merely thinking about them fills you with delight. Your soul can do nothing but love the other. This love is so strong that the two have become one. Love at this stage has adopted the veil of silence.
So, how does this knowledge of the progression of love help us understand the 'spark of love' and dryness in prayer? Well, the spark of love happens when you start to internalise what you know about the other person and impress it upon who you are. You can't do this if you don't know the other person or if they don't know themselves or even let you know. You also can't do this if you are unwilling to impress this other person upon who you are. In other words, if you are unwilling to align their desires with your desires, their mindset with your mindset, their dispositions with your dispositions then you aren't going to be able to internalise that love. This is the same with prayer. You need to align your will with God's will. You need to remove the things that aren't aligned with what God wants and desires for your life. Your mindset, your dispositions, they need to change to become more in line with God's.
It's difficult to will the good of the other if you don't know them. It's impossible if you don't let yourself love them. So why is this intuition seemingly against the use of rationality? Because love isn't always rational. Sometimes a person impresses themselves on you so much that you can't help but love them. It bypasses reason and targets your soul. However, it's still important that you use your reason to understand how you should direct this love. Love is like a boat. Without a sail, it moves nowhere. Without a rudder, it crashes into the rocks.
So, how do we overcome dryness? Both in prayer and in love?
Understand the other on a deeper level. Then, allow the other to impress themselves upon you and open up to how that may change you and leave you vulnerable. Love is not a stationary force. It is constantly moving from the potential to the actual.