The more experience of God we have, the harder it is for us not to notice the same thing about God that 1 John observes: God is love. Teresa teaches this truth in a variety of ways, asking us, first and foremost, not simply to take her (or anyone’s) word for it, but to reach toward God and see for ourselves. In fact, she teaches that, after a certain point, we cannot know God if we continue to approach God abstractly or within the categories of divinity that we have been taught. As we grow toward God, a complete openness to letting God be God and letting God teach us who God is will be necessary.
If this approach seems a bit daunting, she provides a simple formula:
In order to profit by this path and ascend to the dwelling places we desire, the important thing is not to think much but to love much; and so do that which best stirs you to love.
In counseling this, Teresa is not saying that we should set aside our intellects or any of the capacities we have as creative, integrative thinkers. What she is saying, I think, is that love creates a more expansive space in which to encounter God, to taste God, to know God, to be changed by God. Love is what enables a genuine partnership with God to be formed and then to begin to flourish.
Teresa is asking us to habituate ourselves to love—to make love our habit, our default position. When we are faced with choices and decisions, she advises us to choose what feeds and fosters love in us, for love energizes us for all that we are called to do in our lives. We will need love’s stirring for the path ahead, wherever it takes us. If we do not become dedicated students of love’s ways, we will not make further progress in our journey of growth toward God.