Friday, July 3, 2009

A Place for My Soul

My soul, waits in silence for God only

For my hope is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken.

On God my salvation and my glory rest;
The rock of my strength, my refuge is from God

Trust in Him at all times, O people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us.

- Psalm 62, NASB

All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.

- Blaise Pascal

The place where my soul rests is a private world . I step into it whenever I shed the noise of the world outside with it's labors and concerns. Like Alice stepping through the looking glass, I find here a world that is reflective of the real one, but a world that rests only in my mind. Or does it? Is there more to it than that?

For here are memories that are as vivid as the day they happened. Here are ideas that take shape and form within my musings and which rise up before me as real as flesh and blood. Here is the Lord Himself, present with me. Thoughts, addressed directly to me, appear in my mind -- thoughts I know I did not create for myself. Here is the still, small whisper of the Designer of the Universe, so sought after and so hard to hear in other places. Here beauty fills the very air around me. Majesty enfolds me. Storms are stilled.

Here I find my strength, and I find rest for my soul.

My heart, which I hardly notice elsewhere, moves within me as a vibrant, living thing. I notice how it is. I see what I have been doing with new eyes. I see the world within my world, and how the choices I make, the actions I take, come from the very center of my being. There are reasons why I struggle, and why I win victories. Here, I know that the very wellspring of life flows through and from that secret, invisible self who lives and breathes with my every move.

Who am I when no one watches? Where do I go when the day around me hushes, deep in the evening? What does my mind do when my hands rest? It matters. For nothing of worth happens apart from my soul. No real victories, no real work, can be done apart from the center.

There is nothing more essential to a life well-lived than a vibrant, inner world.

But it must be cultivated, it must be grown, lovingly and carefully over time. Here is the secret of secret places that few understand: you can create, over time, the inner world that inspires, that comforts, that endures, by choosing well what you place there. You make your private world, and then, over the years, it makes you.

I have had the privilege of observing many lives from an intimate perspective. This has been a great honor, to have such trust and vulnerability from others. The biggest lesson I have learned from my friends is this: a rich, private world creates a meaningful and beautiful life. There are no exceptions to this rule. Without a private world that has been cultivated, it is impossible to remain fully alive amidst the pressures of a fallen world. We cannot obtain strength and depth and vitality by simply borrowing it from others, or by purchasing interesting things and experiences. Other lives can inspire. Experiences can instruct. But we must learn to be still with our own souls, to choose our place of rest, to tend to our thoughts. Without this, we will become empty. We will live, without ever having truly lived, and we will pass from this life with profound regret.


Our modern culture does not encourage us to sit still, to reflect. If anything, it pulls us away from meditation. The sheer variety and level of noise in our lives often keeps us from being quiet. A lack of experience creates uncertainty for many. How to do it? How does one actually go about finding a private world of depth and meaning and beauty? Where to start? Many people have trouble just sitting still, alone, for a few minutes. If this is the case for you, allow me to encourage you over the next few days and give you some practical ideas that will help you build, step-by-step, a private world all your own which is a delight and a refuge for you.

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