Sometimes I think we view passion as being ever-increasing, like a graph charting up and to the right. But I don’t think life works like that.
This past weekend I mentioned how the beginning of the story of Jacob and Rachel is drenched with passion. Somewhere down the road, though, Jacob & Rachel inevitably got tired of pitching the tent and feeding the sheep. It's the drudgery of routine. In fact, several years later after being unable to have children, Rachel dumps on Jacob and says “If you can’t give me children I’m going to die”, knowing full well that the problem wasn’t Jacob because he was having babies galore with Leah. Jacob gets angry and shouts, “Oy vey! Who do you think I am? God?”
I would doubt seriously there was a great rush of passionate love at that point.
Later, Jacob and his father-in-law get in a fight and Jacob rehashes the past because Laban accuses him of stealing his idols. What neither of them knew was Rachel had stolen them from her own father and hid them under her saddle. Then she told her dad she couldn’t get off her camel to greet him because it was her “time of the month.” The whole thing could have been chalked up as a PMS issue. We aren’t told if Jacob found out later but it would be my guess that he did and the proverbial manure hit the ventilator. And again I doubt there was any great flood of passionate romance at that moment.
“Falling in love” is what some psychologists believe is the collapsing of so-called “ego boundaries.” Ego boundaries are believed to be something that develops as we mature. For instance, a newborn baby takes time to discover that its hands are connected to itself. After having no sense of boundaries, no distinguishing from itself and the rest of the universe, eventually it realizes that when it’s hungry, mother doesn’t always want to feed it; when it is playful, mother doesn’t always want to play. In his classic book, The Road Less Traveled, the lat author and psychologist M. Scott Peck commented that a baby discerns that its will is “experienced as something separate from its mother’s behavior.” Peck noted that the child’s sense of identity develops out of the interaction between the infant and mother. It’s interesting that when this interaction is “grossly disturbed,” for instance if there is no mother or a severely disinterested one, the infant will grow into an adult “whose sense of identity is grossly defective in the most basic ways.” In one year the newborn goes from no sense of identity to “my foot, my nose, my eyes, my thoughts, my viewpoint, my feelings.” The knowledge of these limits is what psychologists refer to “ego boundaries.” As we grow older, we become painfully aware of our own limitations.
Peck wrote: “Reality (will eventually) intrude upon the fantastic unity of the couple who have fallen in love. Sooner or later, in response to the problems of daily living, ‘individual will’ reasserts itself. He wants to have sex; she doesn’t. She wants to go to the movies; he doesn’t. He wants to put money in the bank; she wants a dishwasher. She wants to talk about her job; he wants to talk about his. She doesn’t like his friends; he doesn’t like hers. So both of them, in the privacy of their hearts, begin to come to the sickening realization that they are not one with the beloved, that the beloved has and will continue to have his or her own desires, tastes, prejudices and timing different from the other’s. One by one, gradually or suddenly, they fall out of love. Once again they are two separate individuals. At this point they begin either to dissolve the ties of their relationship or to initiate the work of real loving.”
The theory is that in “falling in love” we experience the collapsing of those ego boundaries...we are one with our beloved, we merge our identity with our lover, and there is release from loneliness accompanying the collapse of our walls. Falling in love is effortless. And that precisely is part of the problem; for real love is an act of the will, an act of choice, and will never be anything less.
Now think about how this relates to our passion for God.
For instance, I heard a speaker comment that God spoke to him one day and said, “You and I aren’t compatible…and I don’t change.” I wonder if passion for God is connected with the willful collapsing of my ego boundaries? Would “falling in love” with God be similar to that?
Perhaps when Jesus said, “Pick up your cross and follow me,” He was describing the ultimate breakdown of ego boundaries.
Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. 1 Peter 2:11 (Message Bible)
“You must worship no other gods, but only the Lord, for he is a God who is passionate about his relationship with you.” Exodus 34:14 (New Living Translation)