Love: fantasy or reality?

WHEN we call it ``romantic fantasy,'' it all sounds harmless and at the same time delightfully real. But actually, it is neither. For many, preoccupation with fantasy has crept out of the rose-latticed gardens of Victorian novels, past the Hollywood cameras, and into the center of their lives. How are we influenced by the growing acceptance of sensualism as normal, and even therapeutic? Has emotional and physical intensity actually become our measure for what love is?

The deeper issue underlying this one concerns our understanding of what is real and substantial. Is reality essentially physical, sensual? Is it strictly of the flesh? Or are the things of Spirit the basic reality, the enduring substance of existence? Is life so drab and uneventful that we must escape through fantasy? Or, is our own daily living just not spiritually real enough? And if our present relationship disappoints us, will getting a new one, a more ``fantastic'' one, really satisfy our deep inner needs?

Either the reality of life is sensual, with all the vacillations between thrill and boredom that sensualism implies, or else this ``emotional ping-pong'' really has nothing to do with man as God's expression. The incessant search for love sometimes indicates that we are largely strangers to the embrace of our Father and to the intimacy of His love.

Everyone has a natural longing to find ``true love.'' And our romantic disappointments may lead us to suspect that what we most often call love isn't genuine love at all. It isn't the outcome of divine Love, of our creator. Divine Love isn't volatile. It doesn't swing from the impassioned to the estranged. But it does include an abiding fulfillment that far surpasses fleeting satisfactions. No person can ultimately satisfy our deepest inner longings. These must be fulfilled by divine Love and by the understanding of who we really are as God's spiritual image. This truth of man is what under-girds genuine, trustworthy relationships.

When Jesus met a woman at a well who had had five husbands, he must have sensed her inner thirst for the satisfaction of Spirit. He used the simple incident as the occasion to speak metaphorically about the living water that he possessed. He said, ``Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst.''1 And in the Sermon on the Mount he gave us this promise: ``Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.''2

But in order to be filled by the fullness of Christ, we should be careful not to keep our days, our minds, ourselves so full with daily busyness that there is no room for Christ! We must remain open to spiritual intuitions so that we can respond to our natural inclinations toward good. These intuitions make us alert and defend us from the subliminal influence of sexuality in such things as ordinary song lyrics, highway billboards, and even in the advertising of household products.

Actually, divine Spirit's influence is all around us. But in order to become fully conscious of this fact we need to listen quietly and pray earnestly. Through prayer we can become conscious now of our real nature, which includes an inherent spiritual sense of completeness.

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes, ``If spiritual sense always guided men, there would grow out of ecstatic moments a higher experience and a better life with more devout self-abnegation and purity.''3

Letting unselfed love take the lead in our thoughts and lives sheds new light on the issue of attraction. We begin to see that ``chemistry'' -- that feeling of irresistible magnetism -- is the counterfeit of our primal attraction to good; and we each possess the God-derived good sense to recognize what comes from God versus what would pull us away from Him. We have the God-given ability to go against the crowd when needed, to pursue what we most want -- the ``long-term commitment'' of our spiritual oneness with God.

Truly tender relationships built on this kind of mutual interest and commitment are far from dull or uneventful. And they have a way of weathering the demands of everyday close living. Rather than feeling like we are missing out on something, we'll feel more alive. This love is richer, fuller. For unlike sensuality, which always vacillates between pleasure and pain, the love of divine Love is constant and caring. When we gain this sense of love, we don't need to escape from reality and don't want to! And when relationships fail us, we won't blindly run to new ones. Instead, we'll turn to God to inspire and elevate our affections.

Fantasy and thrill don't bring us closer to true love; they actually deprive us of it. The understanding that man reflects God's completeness dissolves the imbalance that sensualism creates. It deepens our affections and makes our relationships with others more loving.

1John 4:14. 2Matthew 5:6. 3Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 7. - NO DAILY BIBLE VERSE TODAY -

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