An Athiest friend once said something profound to me about how some people love God.
To him, God was nothing but a man-made coping mechanism.
After a long period of introspection, I realized man (including myself), at times, had made Him into a coping mechanism.
The key word here is limerence.
“Limerence is a state of mind which results from romantic or non-romantic feelings for another person, and typically includes intrusive, melancholic thoughts, or tragic concerns for the object of one’s affection as well as a desire to form or maintain a relationship with the object of love and to have one’s feelings reciprocated. Limerence can also be defined as an involuntary state of intense desire.”Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limerence
Only recently have I figured out how to convert my own religious limerence into true love, and I think all the struggles I have faced with this concept might help others.
The concept of limerence had recently emerged in my search for care for my mental illness. I thought it was OCD that needed to be managed; no, this is actually a crucial component of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD).
My Experience With Religious Limerence
Some consider limerence to only apply to human romance. In my case, it wasn’t. Did it go there sometimes? Oh, yes! But it wasn’t the critical factor in my obsessive revelry of whatever the thing of the hour was.
I put friendship on a much higher pedestal than being a lover. If you don’t have my back, then there is no way I am letting you near my heart. Now mix this with a lack of proactive authority in my life. Authorities either didn’t save me, beat me physically or verbally, or disowned me when I wasn’t deemed valuable to them.
Using this term might reveal my love of anime, but this turned my limerence into a “senpai syndrome.”
I would fight and die for people who knew more than I did, that patted me on the head and told me I was a good girl.
In my own experience as a Pentecostal, getting obsessed with Christ was not only allowed but considered a necessity. He was likened to a drug, and getting “drunk in the spirit” was a sign of the depth of your relationship with Him. I had been disowned by my previous pastor for having a friend who was pagan, inferring I was never saved with a snide “I hope you get there” after I gave him the salute of “See you in Heaven.”
Twelve years of faith teaching and thinking I was good with Jesus went down the drain in one sentence.
It was sad because I wasn’t good with Jesus under that pastor’s watch.
I only served Jesus to get the praise of being called a “good and faithful servant.”
I did it to get to Heaven.
All I served God for was what He could do for me — my time with Catholicism had already stripped me of any sense of self. They described it as forfeiting your entire soul, like opening your body with a zipper and replacing yourself with Jesus/The Holy Spirit.
For Him to take me, I must have been worth something. This was a step up from the beatings I received in Catholic school from my peers. I believed they wouldn’t hurt me if I gave them good things.
It took me leaving Christianity but holding onto Christ for a few years to realize that hearing voices and seeing angels and demons was Schizoaffective Disorder.
I thought it was normal my entire life and that “The Gifts of the Holy Spirit” had side effects.
In my insanity, I sought out a caretaker, not a Savior. Not just in Christ, but in other people – because that was the only love I knew.
How Do You Know If It’s Religious Limerence?
How do you believe in God?
Simple. The same way He believes in you.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”John 3:16 KJV
If you believe in a person’s ability to reach their better selves, you do things for them. Do they need a ride to sports practice? You give them a lift. Is money tight for them? You give them five bucks for Taco Bell. If you believe what you hear about a person, you label them in “fact” of what they are now.
It is a fact Jesus gives you things if you talk to Him. You will see Him in Heaven, and He will supply all your needs. Nothing is impossible with or for Him.
The Lord tells you what you are in the Bible. He believes you can become someone who knows peace and works in symbiosis with Him.
The right way is to believe in Him as He believes in you. Not just as a fact, but as a being of potential.
His potential is infinite – we are not. Once we realize His nature in the tablet of our hearts, it is what we do with it and what we focus on that matters.
The Difference Between Love and Limerence
“Works won’t get you to Heaven!”
Yes, but there is a reason why faith without works is dead, and you will be judged according to your works.
You obey Him because you love and understand who He is, not what He does.
Even though I cannot see or hear Him, I see the sunset over the horizon and the stars in the sky and tell Him how amazing He is for creating that.
Amid random circumstances, I believe I see Him poking through this reality. Because I believe He is all-knowing and caring, though He is a mysterious entity and Christ is His son, I like doing things that please Him because I know He cares for me. While His gifts show He cares, it’s in His presence, not His “presents,” that shows a loving relationship.
For instance, listen to what your heart is saying when you see a panhandler on the street.
“This is for You, Jesus!”
“I have to lead another soul to heaven!”
“I do this for the Love of God!”
All of those seem to lean toward a works mentality of doing things for Him to keep Him near. In this instance, I would instead try:
“Huh! That guy looks pretty rough, the Lord must have put our paths to cross for a reason, and I have a five on me. Let’s go!”
Overall, be sure to consider if what you feel is healthy in a human relationship.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.Galatians 5: 22-23 (KJV)
Listen very closely to some of your favorite praise and worship songs. What do they praise Him for? The kingdom of God or for Jesus? Is it a thank you for all He has given us?
Oh yes, give thanks; it’s proper and polite. However, the fruits of your spirit will show whether you know Him for His intimacy rather than just His caregiving.
If you genuinely want to be with Him in Heaven, you will never tell others they are going to hell. To judge any soul worthy of hell or Heaven, you are casting a judgment on what you see and not what God sees. A person will preach passionately about what they genuinely believe in. Pay attention to people that talk about hell more than Heaven. We know where the focus is if people talk about destroying the devil more than the love of Jesus. When they talk about building the kingdom of God in this world more than the love of Christ, that is what they worship.
Doing so with extreme zeal and unhealthy gusto is religious limerence.
Think about it: Doesn’t anything people talk about more than Jesus have a high risk of becoming an idol?
When He Slaps You Awake
I have been dealing with this and coming to terms with the fact I had a limerence for Christ. It was a hard pill to swallow.
How does one not have a limerence for the King of Kings?
It’s a two-way street.
It is hard to go from “looking for signs and wonders while listening to the voice of God” after being diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. Communication needs to be similar to how you would talk to a long-time lover. You don’t hover over your phone for their every text. That’s limerence.
Pay attention to what I call “the ping.” Some call it intuition, some call it your gut, but remember the Lord usually has two volume settings: still and small or bushes of fire.
“And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.“1 Kings 19 11-13 (KJV)
Either He slaps you so hard that you know it’s God (and you usually need to be slapped pretty hard), or He gives you a nudge.
Remember: You need to pause to figure out if the nudge is of God. If you know God and know what He wants in the Bible, then that nudge is probably the Holy Spirit. If you have any alarms causing you doubt, look it up! On occasion, the Lord may tell you not to mess with someone. Many people were at the Bethesda pool, and Jesus only healed one.
God is not the author of confusion. Also, recall the fruits of the spirit I mentioned earlier. If you are passionate about God and don’t have these things on your walk with Christ, search your heart and ask Him to help you discover them.
It’s Going to Be Okay
Getting out of limerence is a heart-wrenching process. While it usually is psychologically best to get away from the entity you were pining after, in this case, the person you need to get away from is yourself.
Realize you have no self-control.
Being passionate is okay – until you start worshipping the passion itself.
Christ is not a drug. Do not treat Him as such.
This is a prevalent mentality. So if you catch yourself in this pattern, it might break you. You will often find others who are caught in this pattern and would rather be seen going to church than caring for their fellow man. You fall into the same limerence trap if you hit them with passionate judgment.
There are days I struggle with being a toxic Christian myself. Getting certain mentalities out of your head is a challenge.
Just know there is a difference between Christian society and Christianity. What people make of themselves to try and wrap their heads around God can sometimes become an idol. It’s tragic, but whether we choose to be with society or without them, our walk with Christ and seeing Him as Creator, Savior, and Prince of Peace must come first.
It took me three religions over a lifetime of over 40 years to come to this conclusion. I hope it will help you get closer to Him. Perhaps if you don’t know Him, it will help you understand the difference between the people who do and those who don’t.