Life is a journey of becoming one with God. What does this union look like? There are those who experience consolations and/or exercise in spiritual gifts. Are these evidence of union? Good question.
I think the answer is yes, these are evidence that we are becoming one with God. However, we know from the spiritual theologians that consolations can become just that, the consolation prize. It is possible to get caught up in the goodness of these secondary fruits, and stagnate.
So, what is the answer? Well, there are likely many ways to answer the question. The thesis that seems the most obvious to me goes something like this. First, we know from 2,000 years of experience that the process of becoming one with God includes three things: 1) the purgation of sinful tendencies, 2) illumination in regards to heavenly things, and 3) a growing sense of union with God.
How are we purged of our sinful tendencies? Again, history tells us that the Holy Spirit has different ways of achieving this objective. I think it safe to say that it starts with discipleship; with following the Christ. Jesus tells us that following him means dying to self and carrying our crosses. Mk 8:34. In at least one tradition, this has been interpreted as practicing virtue, which includes detachment from worldly things, and trusting that God is in control, even when bad things happen. One is something that we actively pursue, and the other is something we passively accept.
I suppose it is important to state that there is a difference between giving up or being a victim to circumstances and using prudence and prayer to determine our way through these difficulties. Understanding this nuance, in my experience, is an on-going lesson in living and learning. Still, it seems there is some degree of actively navigating the situation and trustingly giving control over to God.
Thus, as we learn to live a life of virtue and how to navigate life’s circumstances with the aid of the Holy Spirit, we open the door, and allow Him to purge us of the things that keep us from being united to Him. We learn to open our minds to Him, and we begin to better understand heavenly things.
As we are purged and illuminated, we undergo the interior change Paul talks about in some of his letters. We start to see the fruits of the Holy Spirit. We experience the transforming power of grace. We see our life choices become more like the choices of Jesus. We experience peace, joy, and an ever-growing sense of love. In my opinion, love is the biggest key to knowing that one is becoming united to God. The more we are transformed into selfless, self-giving love through grace, dying to self, and cross carrying, the more united we are to God, who, according to John, is love.
Spend some time with the Holy Spirit praying for a greater understanding of spiritual truths. Ask him to guide you through the stages of purgation, illumination, and union. Ask him to help you desire only things of him. Ask him to transform you into that which you were made to be – one with the God who not only loves you, but calls you to be one in him.