Have you been in love before?

cimagala-thumbTHAT’S the question, or the many variations of it, that I pose to anyone who comes to me complaining that he is burned out, with no appetite to do anything, feeling completely dry and uninspired, etc.

The idea is simply to remind him that no matter what degree his predicament of being burned out is, it is love that is the crux of the matter—its absence that causes it and its presence that will heal it.

Of course, this reminder is given without prejudice to whatever medical attention or therapeutic treatment may be needed. In this, I leave the respective professionals and experts to do their job. Mine is to focus on the root cause that revolves around the question of love.

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Very often, when one gets burned out, it is because he has fallen into some activism, plunging into a frenzy of work, job assignments, tasks, etc., but without the spirit of love. The whole affair becomes mechanical and soulless, one’s work giving no sufficient reward or satisfaction, and in time one will just go pfft.

Or one is forced or pressured to do something that he does not like. Or that there is some persistent problem or bothersome circumstance in what he is doing. In other words, he is not at peace with his work, he is not happy. He is actually in a state of misery which he can cover up only for a period of time. If the predicament remains unresolved, there’s no other way but for his organism to declare a collapse.

In any event, what is common in all these scenarios is that the motive for doing things is not that pure. It does not go all the way to the real love that can only come from God. The motive is often stranded in some purely temporal, highly transitory reasons—the need for money, the need simply to obey the superiors, the need to develop one’s talents and to occupy one’s time, etc.

I believe that at bottom, the problem is more spiritual and moral than anything else. And this has to be addressed squarely. The other aspects of the problem—physical, emotional, psychological, etc.—are only outgrowth of the spiritual and moral.

Back to the question I pose, the person’s response is usually a wavering yes—he admits that has been in love before, and more of an afterthought, he may manage to say that he continues to be in love. It is at this point that a closer scrutiny of what is meant by love is made and discussed thoroughly.

This is the most crucial and tedious part. We all need to know the true face of love, its essence, its source and resources, its purpose, its scope. These are not easy topics to talk about. One needs to have the proper dispositions. And quite often these dispositions can only be had when some traumatic experiences trigger them. That’s when one sort of changes gear and gets more receptive to go spiritual.

There is no doubt that some kind of a drastic paradigm shift of one’s understanding of love would be involved here. Love just cannot be lived solely in the province of our feelings, emotions and passions, nor only in our interests, or in the many other external conditionings—the fads and trends, etc.

Love is mainly a spiritual and supernatural affair, because true love can only come from God, not from us alone. For it to be true, our love can only be a participation, a reflection of God’s love as taught, shown and commanded to us by Christ: “Love one another as I have loved you.”

This is the love that can endure and conquer all things, as St. Paul once said. It has dimensions, resources and power that go beyond but do not replace nor suppress our human faculties.

This love is given to us in abundance. We are also equipped to receive it and to live it to the full, with God’s grace. Obviously, given our human condition that has been weakened by sin and now has a variety of frailties and vulnerabilities, we have to understand that this God-given love has to be received in stages and with the cooperation of everyone.

That is why, whenever we find ourselves in some predicament, we have to mine more deeply the resources of this divine love, which can resolve all things. It is even stronger than death, about which nothing can be done humanly speaking. It is divine love that can lead us to our abiding renewal and ultimate resurrection. (By Fr. Roy Cimagala)



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