As we traverse the spiritual landscape that leads us toward increased unity with the Creator, there comes a point where we come to appreciate the value of what can best be called our “inner sanctuary.” It is that special place inside our being that serves as our own personal “Holy of Holies,” a divine chamber where our human spirit comes into more intimate contact with the One True Spirit. This inner temple is where we are first emptied of the limitations of the “little mind,” our lower self, and we are filled with both Light and Life.
This blessed sanctuary is also were we have our first encounter with the “Sacred Silence.” More than just an empty mind, our sacred inner sanctuary is a place of preparation. It is a holy temple where the Spirit of God dwells and it is a place where, if we possess ears to hear, we can be taught those “great and mighty things we have never heard.” This sacred place is not only a place of teaching, but also a great temple of comfort and nurturance.
Paul describes our God as the God of all comfort and no doubt this is a profound truth. It is in the spiritual light of this inner sanctuary where God’s unlimited grace, mercy, and comfort are imparted into the depths of our spirit. In this aspect, our inner sanctuary is a chamber of divine healing and spiritual balancing.
Moreover, it is our holy place where real miracles are conceived.
Noted Quaker writer Thomas Kelly speaks of this inner sanctuary and the benefits accrued from learning to abide there:
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 unto 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 dynamic center, a creative Life that presses to birth within us. It is a Light Within which illumines the face of God and casts new shadows and new glories upon the face of men. It is the Shekinah of the soul, the Presence in the midst. 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.
A fundamental spiritual discipline that aids us in our ability to live from our sacred center is the practice of contemplation in general and resting in the “sacred silence” in particular. This is an important goal for each of us, but we will inevitably encounter resistance, coming either from ourselves, the world, or the enemy. Frederick Buechner calls this inner sanctuary our “shimmering self” and he speaks of our general inability to live from the sacred center:
Our original shimmering self gets buried so deep we hardly live out of it at all…rather, we learn to live out of all the other selves which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather.
The coats and hats Buechner is speaking of are the various roles that we play in our day to day lives – roles like husband, wife, father, mother, employer, employee, friend, and yes, Christian. For all too many of us, even our identity as members of Christ’s family is little more than a role we play. Little wonder we lose contact with our Inner Light.
The practice of contemplation and developing the ability to rest in the Sacred Silence is somewhat of a lost art in the Protestant Church. This is highly unfortunate because it is in this inner sanctuary where we indeed meet our “shimmering self” – our true being manifested as the Inner Light. It is precisely the fear on the part of many believers that somehow Christian meditation is somehow an Eastern practice or even more sinister, a New Age technique spawned in the bowels of Hell.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Many among us desire a deeper spirituality, a deeper awareness of the presence of the Light that dwells in their hearts, a deeper sense of security, assurance, and vitality. A.W. Tozer tells us:
There are those who…are yet unable to reconcile themselves to the continued absence of fire. They desire God above all. They are athirst to taste for themselves the ‘piercing sweetness’ of the love of Christ about Whom all the holy prophets did write and the psalmists did sing…..
For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience, they are not better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.
Christians have become both complacent and ignorant. Ignorant of the riches that lie at the core of the faith they profess and the treasures promised by the Lord to those who seek and knock. Tozer continues:
Everything is made to center upon the initial act of ‘accepting Christ’ (a term incidentally, which is not found in the Bible) and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls. We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him we need no more to seek Him. This is set before us as the last word in orthodoxy, and it is taken for granted that no Bible-taught Christian ever believed otherwise……The experiential heart-theology of a grand army of fragrant saints is rejected in favor of a smug interpretation of Scripture.
Unfortunately, for all too many Christians this leads to a sense of self-righteousness at best and an empty, hollow spirituality at worst.
The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted. Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long, in vain.
Basically, what Tozer is getting at here is that we have to reconnect with the wisdom, love, power, and light that reside at our inner core. We have to realign ourselves so that we are operating as much as possible out of the Spirit and not out of our ego or, as some call it, our lower self. Paul used a term that was popular in his day, the flesh. I prefer to not use “flesh” because over the years it has accumulated much cultural baggage and misinterpretation. Here at LifeBrook we often use the term “little mind” to describe our ego-driven lower self. It is contrasted with another term, Sacred Spirit, which is that part of ourselves we have been talking about – the Inner Light. In fact, we often use the term Sacred Self and Inner Light interchangeably. No matter what you choose to call it, the tried and true methodology of carrying out this realignment and living from our Sacred Self is continual practice of the classical spiritual disciplines, particularly resting in the Sacred Silence or Christian meditation.
If we want to see who God is, we look to Christ. If we want to live as God wants us to live, then it is only obvious that we are to live as Christ lived. How are we to do that? We are to emulate the way he lived his life. It is not enough to imitate his behavior in specific situations, although this is admirable. We are to engage in the overall approach of life that he engaged in. If we emulate these activities, then our being, not just our behavior, will be more like his being. This involves practicing the same spiritual disciplines that Christ practiced. Added to this are the classic traditions proven effective over the centuries by the church as a whole, particularly the early church.
There are numerous disciplines that can help us bring about the needed realignment we have been talking about. However, in the confines of this brief essay I want to discuss the importance of Christian meditation.
Meditation is a word that some Christians have a tendency to shy away from, mostly from misunderstanding or from a misguided perception that by engaging in the practice he or she may fall under the sway of either eastern religion or demonic possession. As stated earlier, nothing could be further from the truth.
Meditative practices have a long history in Christian tradition and have proven their value across the ages. These practices may vary in terms of technique or goal but each and every one of them have an overriding purpose: to deepen our contact with the divine and assist in fostering a proper alignment with the Spirit in order to discern God’s will and be empowered to carry it out.
Contemplation, a form of Christian meditation, has become increasingly popular as a method of realigning with the Inner Light. Sometimes referred to as “Contemplative Prayer, this ancient spiritual practice has many practical benefits as well, such as reduction of stress and fostering a sense of peace in daily life. Yet Christian meditation has at its foundation a spiritual purpose. It is part and parcel, for example, of the renewing of the mind. Henry Drummond exclaims:
There is nothing that will bring us such abundant returns as to take a little time in the quiet each day of our lives. We need this to get the kinks out of our minds, and hence out of our lives. We need this to form better the higher ideals of life. We need this in order to see clearly in mind the things upon which we would concentrate and focus the thought-forces. We need this in order to make continually anew and to keep our conscious connection with the Infinite. We need this in order that the rush and hurry of our everyday life does not keep us away from the conscious realization of the fact that the spirit of Infinite life and power that is back of all, working in and through all, the life of all, is the life of our life, and the source of our power; and that outside of this we have no life and we have no power. To realize this fact fully, and to live in it consciously at all times, is to find the kingdom of God, which is essentially an inner kingdom, and can never be anything else. The kingdom of heaven is to be found only within, and this is done once and for all, and in a manner in which it cannot otherwise be done, when we come into the conscious, living realization of the fact that in our real selves we are essentially one with the Divine life, and open ourselves continually so that this Divine life can speak to and manifest through us.
If you are looking for positive results in your spiritual life it is essential that you stake out time in your day to spend quiet time with God. This will help us get the kinks out of our minds and out of our lives. However, this special time with our Creator must involve more than sitting quietly, reading, and praying. Important as these disciplines are, if we want to taste the true blessings of Sacred Spirit, we must make personal effort to place ourselves in a receptive mode. This involves becoming mentally quiet, increasingly centered, and spiritually alert. Contrary to what you may hear from fear-mongering fundamentalists who have never really taken the time to research the subject fully, Christian meditation does not involve emptying the mind. On the contrary, it involves silencing our internal chatter so that we become a vessel God can then fill with himself.
Time does not allow me to continue this discussion at present, but I will present more over the next couple of days.
To be continued…..
© L.D. Turner 2008 / All Rights Reserved