The Secret Places of the Heart

Have you ever read anything written by one of Christianity’s many mystics—those who encourage us to be constantly aware of God’s presence in our daily lives? Those who believe that, with discipline and hard work, we can be in constant communion with God?

 If you haven't, don't feel bad! Protestant churches are generally very good at encouraging exterior holiness; we do a very good job of showing how the Christian life leads to virtues like love, generosity, and care for others. This outward journey toward Christ-likeness is all perfectly true. But many of us neglect the parallel interior journey of the soul. We don't talk as much about the process of becoming more and more at rest in God, and of transforming our state of mind until it's more natural for us to talk to God than it is for us to forget about God. Even though we could outwardly be busy with our daily business, our inner self could be in constant contact with God. If we could each reach such a place in our souls, it would overflow into the rest of our conscious life.

This interior journey is just as important (more important?) than the exterior journey. And there are many people in church history who've written about reaching this state of the soul; I don't know why we don’t draw on their experiences, and why we don't take their advice to heart. But whatever the reason, it's a huge mistake for us to miss out on 2,000 years of wisdom in this area. Consider spending a bit of time this week with one of Christianity’s mystics; read a little something written by a Christian thinker like Catherine of Siena, John of the Cross, Brother Lawrence, Thomas Merton, or Thomas R. Kelly. Until then, here’s a selection from Thomas R. Kelly to give you taste of what you might be missing out on!

"Meister Eckhart wrote, 'As thou art in church or cell, that same frame of mind carry out in to the world, into its turmoil and its fitfulness.' Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center, a speaking Voice, to which we may continuously return. Eternity is at our hearts, pressing upon our time-torn lives, warming us with intimations of an astounding destiny, calling us home to itself. Yielding to these persuasions, gladly committing ourselves in body and soul, utterly and completely, to the Light Within, is the beginning of true life. It is a Light Within which illumines the face of God and casts new shadows and new glories upon the face of men. Here is the Slumbering Christ, stirring to be awakened, to become the soul we clothe in earthly form and action. And He is within us all.... 

The basic response of the soul to the Light is internal adoration and joy, thanksgiving and worship, self-surrender and listening. The secret places of the heart cease to be our noisy workshop. They become a holy sanctuary of adoration and of self-oblation, where we are kept in perfect peace, if our minds be stayed on Him who has found us....In this Center of Creation all things are ours, and we are Christ's and Christ is God's. We are owned men, ready to run and not be weary and to walk and not faint."

—Andrew Garnett