Building a deeper relationship with God – 9 Levels of Love
We hear so often that we need to build a deeper relationship with God, that we should love Him with all our mind, all our heart and all our strength (Lk 10:27). But, it can seem, if you have never experienced it before, that a “deeper relationship with God” is a nebulous concept.
You know you are searching for a deep enough love to fill your soul’s yearning for connection. You want to believe it is possible because you have seen other people who seem to have it… but, is it one of those “either you ‘get it’ or you don’t” kind of things?
How do you know if your relationship with God is truly “deep”? Or if you are just scratching the surface of what you COULD experience? Are you just out of luck if you don’t “get it”? How do you even know if you “get it” or not?
I’ve seen people try to explain building a relationship with God by saying things like, “You just have to get to know Him by going to church, praying, reading the bible and etc.” I’ve heard practical advice on how to make a prayer journal. I’ve seen exposés that claim to teach you how best to pray. Pinterest offers an abundance of great quote plaques to put on your “War Room” wall…
All of this may have value, but something is still missing. As you may have already discovered, you can do as much coloring in your bible or posting inspirational quotes as you want, but it doesn’t necessarily change anything. Tomorrow when you wake up, your life may not be affected one way or another no matter how many inspirational quotes you “pin” tonight. If you don’t know what exactly you are trying to achieve or why you are doing it, all the effort and good intentions in the world can still feel pointless, confusing and empty.
I believe there is a way to change this….to make deep love more tangible!
I was introduced to the idea of the nine “levels of love” by my father when I was only about 14 years old. He discovered these “love levels” during a series of meditations he did on the Last Supper Discourses (in John 14) and I have subsequently found them backed up all over in other parts of the Bible as well, in both the old and New Testament…
These are not meant to make you uncomfortable or somehow give a “grade” on how well you are doing at life. Rather, they are simply to offer a way to gauge where your relationship with God might lie on a practical spectrum, to give you hope that more is possible and to give you direction to go beyond where you are now.
(In the interest of space I am covering each level in a very brief synopsis here… each one will also have its own post in greater detail and the links will become available as they are written. Also, if this topic interests you, subscribe below to be notified via email when new posts are available!)
The 9 Levels of Love
- Need – The most basic level – recognizing how much you need God (includes Gratitude)
- Belief / Faith – Believing in Him and the role He plays in your life (also includes Praise) – One step up from Need.
- Peace – The level at which you begin to feel relief, instead of panic, at the idea of surrendering our lives to something higher, greater, more than ourselves.
- Trust and Docility – The level of finally surrendering to God and beginning to act on His terms (includes addressing fears)
- Union of Wills – In this level, St. Augustine’s famous quote “Love and do what you will” finally comes into play – for at this level you finally love God so much that your will truly aligns to His, and His will is no longer considered “oppressive”.
- Keeping the commandments – In this level you will finally have a new understanding of “obedience” and appreciation for the role of “rules” in religion. (Finally! Right?)
- Prayer and the Holy Name – As a result of your deepening relationship, in this level your understanding of prayer changes, and, consequently, the way you pray becomes more powerful.
- Mystical Union – Christopher West often speaks of how “God wants to marry us”. This level is a study of the mystics love for God and how it is perfectly attainable for anyone who delves into these levels. Also, a bonus for Catholics, it is the level at which you can finally begin to comprehend the Eucharist.
- Holy Spirit (or The Gift of the Counselor) – Welcome to the world of moving mountains and raising the dead, the world of speaking in tongues and randomly bursting into uncontrollable tears or joyous laughter at the slightest thought or mention of God!
KEY: With this progression of understanding, each level being a natural prerequisite to the latter ones, you can come to understand why your attempts to reach level 7, 8 or 9 instantaneously aren’t likely to succeed and why a love that remains stagnant at level 2, doesn’t automatically change your life.
As you go through the levels you may find that in some areas of your life you are more in tune with God than others. You will find some parts of your life easier to open up than others. As a result, you may find yourself simultaneously in several different levels at the same time. How this is possible and how it is manifested in your own life will become more clear as you go through the levels in more detail.
It is my hope that an understanding of these “levels” can help your understanding of love, particularly for God, deepen, mature and become more personal and life changing as well.
Share below what level you think you might be at and where you want to go!