Let’s begin with this.
That burst of love and goodness you felt when you first encountered God and began the journey of life with God — it was right and given to you by God. All the enthusiasm you felt for God, to connect with God and be a part of the spiritual reality of life — that was exactly as it was meant to be. You were meant to feel yourself near to God and experience bliss and pleasure in God and the things of God.
John of the Cross speaks of this reality like a newborn infant at its mother’s breast:
Once the soul has completely surrendered to serving God, she is nurtured and caressed by him, just like a tender baby with its loving mother. The mother holds the child close in her arms, warming it with the heat of her breasts, nourishing it with sweet milk and softened foods. …
The grace of God is just like a loving mother. Grace kindles in the soul renewed warmth and ardor for serving God. Through grace, the soul discovers sweet spiritual milk and effortlessly drinks in all the things of God. Through grace, God gives the soul intense delight in spiritual practices, just as a loving mother places her breast tenderly into the mouth of her child.
This is how an awakened spiritual life is meant to begin.
We hear the word fire a lot to describe it: “He’s so on fire for God!” we say when someone first converts. That fire, that enthusiasm, that energy, that blazing love … it is kindled in us by God, as we are newborn babes drinking full the sweet spiritual milk of true and unending life for the very first time.
The first stage of the dark night of the soul — the dark night of the senses — begins when the time is right for us to be removed from that pure, sweet spiritual bottle of milk, when it’s time for us to be pulled away from the breast of God and placed on the ground instead, where we’re meant to learn to crawl, then stand, then walk, then run.