L. Dwight Turner
Each day we have a vital choice before us. It is a choice that is both critical and simple, but above all, it is a divine choice. Each morning before our feet hit the floor, we must ask ourselves: Today, will I live from my Lower Mind or my Sacred Mind?
How we answer this question will have significant consequences and will largely determine the character and quality of our day. Further, our answer to this daily question will have direct impact on whether or not we live in accordance with and in pursuit of our Sacred Calling.
When we talk about our “Sacred Calling” we are talking about our purpose and/or mission in life. From the beginning of your journey, it is vital that you come to understand several key points. First, each person has a universal calling and what we here at LifeBrook term “particular calling.” Your universal calling has to do with God’s universal mission and purpose. There are certain things that each of us are to do and more importantly to be. Our particular calling is just that – particular to us as individuals. It is a personal mission that only you can fulfill and is normally based on your natural talents and proclivities.
An important aspect of your universal calling is “walk in your divinity,” which is another way of saying you need to live each day from your Sacred Mind. Unfortunately, most people are incapable of this without help from the divine order and a significant amount of mindful awareness about what they are doing from one moment to the next. This, in turn, requires work.
Before we explore the particulars of making a positive decision each day to live from our Sacred Mind, let’s look at a paradoxical issue that is central to the Christian walk of faith. If we truly want to become the best that we can be, the optimal version of ourselves, we have to come to grips with the expansive parameters of what Christ accomplished during his sojourn here on earth. Granted, he carried out his teaching mission and died on the cross, thus cleansing us of sin and making us presentable in the presence of a God who is holy beyond any human comprehension. But Christ did much more than that.
Through his resurrection and ascension, he laid the groundwork for the arrival of the Holy Spirit, who is the source of our ongoing power as Christians. God, through Christ, calls us to an impeccable life of honor, integrity, and service to others. Further, now that we are in Christ, we are once again spiritually alive and beyond that, “new creations.” As Paul tells us, the new has come and the old has gone. Our new identity in Christ is that of “Children of the Light,” adopted into the family of the “Father of Lights.” We are Christ’s brothers and sisters and we are empowered to carry forward his mission of establishing the kingdom right here on earth.
I don’t know about you, but when I consider all that Christ has accomplished and even more, what I now am as a result of his sacrifice, I am left breathless. The fact is, you and I, as Christians, are highly special, valuable people. If we intend to fulfill our responsibilities in carrying out our calling, we have to become the optimal version of ourselves and in order to do that, we have to accept our new and special stature in Christ.
Yet here is where the real paradox comes in. If we truly want to accept our new identity at a deep level, we have to first realize how truly broken we are. Before we can become a real saint, we have to understand and accept that we are true sinners in every nuance of that word.
Basically, in order to inaugurate and move forward in the Christian walk of faith we have to fully accept our utter wretchedness and, once we do that, accept that God accepts us. It is only then that we can come to understand what Christ has accomplished for us and in us. Before we can accept how wonderful we are, we have to accept how wretched we are.
That, my friends, it the first of many paradoxes along the road called faith formation. Now, armed with that understanding, let’s move on in our discussion of the significance of living from our Sacred Mind.
Each of us has as a part of our inner world, a Sacred Mind and a Lower Mind. The Sacred Mind is that part of you that is created in the image of God and reflects God’s character, wisdom, and love. When we act from Sacred Mind, we act with reverence, honor, integrity, and grace. The Lower Mind, on the other hand, is that which is often called the “ego,” and it is a useful part of ourselves that most of us have turned into an enemy. We do this by giving the Lower Mind more authority over our lives than it should have. The results are disastrous on personal, collective, social, and global levels. Confronting and dealing with the Lower Mind is an essential component of the spiritual journey and should always be viewed as an ongoing process rather than a one-time event.
Get one fact planted firmly in your mind right at the beginning of your dealings with the ego: the Lower Mind (ego) is a complete illusion; a fabrication that you created in order to help you deal with the world and, at the same time, develop an identity for yourself. In this sense, the ego has an important service to perform. It helps you understand how the world works and it helps you navigate the world’s sometimes turbulent and treacherous waters. Further, the Lower Mind helps you discern who you are and who you are not. So, in relation to these two important factors, the ego is a great tool to have.
The downside to the ego is the fact that it has a heartbeat of separation, not unity. The ego views all things from a me/them perspective. More often than we would like to admit, this turns into a me versus them mentality. Cooperation, a necessary component of unity, is jettisoned in favor of competition. This leads to many obvious problems based in conflict between one person’s needs and another person’s needs. The ego runs on the premise that there is a limited amount of “stuff” around and this “stuff” is of vast importance. The purpose of life is seen as accumulation of “stuff,” often at the expense of other people getting enough “stuff” to live comfortably. The Lower Mind, however, is not too concerned about this state of affairs. After all, the ego, like all successful egos, understands several fundamental laws:
Always look out for Number One first
It is the fittest who survive and the strongest who thrive
I deserve to have my share of the pie (and maybe even more)
It’s my way or the highway
If I end up stepping on someone’s toes, they shouldn’t have put them under my feet
Christian writer Donald Miller, in his wonderfully insightful book entitled, Blue Like Jazz, paints a candid, revealing portrait of what life is like under the continuing sway of the ego. Miller describes how, as a child, the awareness of the fundamental flaw in human nature dawned on him:
Still, I knew, because of my own feelings, there was something wrong with me, and I knew it wasn’t only me. I knew it was everybody. It was like a bacteria or a cancer or a trance. It wasn’t on the skin; it was in the soul. It showed itself in loneliness, lust, anger, jealousy, and depression. It had people screwed up bad everywhere you went – at the store, at home, at church; it was ugly and deep. Lots of singers on the radio were singing about it, and cops had jobs because of it. It was if we were broken, I thought, as if we were never supposed to feel these sticky emotions. It was if we were cracked, couldn’t love right, couldn’t feel good things for very long without screwing it all up. We were like gasoline engines running on diesel.
Miller has a way with words, doesn’t he? If you haven’t read Blue Like Jazz, I highly recommend it. In the section containing the above passage, Miller also shares the following confessional poem by C.S. Lewis. I first read these lines by Lewis early on in my college days, and even though I was thoroughly possessed by the notion that I was intellectually and morally at least two cuts above everybody else, the truth of what this humble, brilliant man was saying penetrated me to the core.
All this flashy rhetoric about loving you.
I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through;
I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.
Peace, reassurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin;
I talk of love – a scholar’s parrot may talk Greek –
But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.
Even now, realizing that I knew little back then and even less now, those last three lines of the first verse body slam me harder than Hulk Hogan. A self-seeking mercenary who never had a selfless thought in his entire life….indeed…
The Lower Mind’s focus on self results in a chronic sense of estrangement. When you are dominated by the ego, a part of you is always wary of others and your true, deep friends are few and far between. More telling, when you are under the sway of the Lower Mind, God usually takes a back seat or worse, is taken completely out of the picture. It is no stretch of fancy when wise people say the ego stands for “ease God out.”
When God is taken out of the picture the person puts ego in the driver’s seat and, although successful for a time, things usually come unraveled. The reason for this is simple. God is our true source of power and enduring success. When separated from our power source, the lights go out. Not only do we become confused and lost, we realize we are alone and don’t have any real answers. What’s worse, we even ask the wrong questions.
Lower Mind’s most consistent question is: What’s in it for me?
What kind of world does all this create? Guns n’ Roses summed it up pretty well with “Welcome to the Jungle.”
Conversely, when we live from Sacred Mind we see things from a much different perspective. Sacred Mind is focused on the whole more than the parts and attempts to create unity rather than division, cooperation rather than competition, encouragement rather than criticism, peace rather than conflict, joy rather than stress, and order rather than chaos.
Remaining connected to God requires living from Sacred Mind and this is not as hard as you might think. Regular spiritual disciplines, especially prayer, meditation, and study of sacred writings help immensely. The important thing is not the method used, but the resulting sense of connection to that universal Spirit that is at the base of all things. You must keep before you your true identity, which is a divine being created in the image of God, designed by God, and loved by God.
Your Sacred Mind is your Inner Light, that part of you that is most like God. No, you are not God and that is vital to understand. However, God did place in you a spark of Spirit that contains everything you need in order to carry out his universal mission and your personal calling. When you connect with and live from Sacred Mind, you have many of the answers that you need in order to become the optimal version of yourself. You don’t have all the answers because only God is all-wise. However, at least now you can ask the right questions.
Sacred Mind’s most consistent question is: How can I help?
As we travel the path of spiritual formation, it is imperative that we realize one cardinal principle: we must come to understand who and what we are and once we do, we increasingly find ways to live from the perspective of our true identity, rather than the false construct of the ego, or lower self. As stated earlier, Paul referred to these two aspects of our being as “Spirit” and “flesh.” The words are different and perhaps somewhat outmoded, but the divine principle remains the same. The more we live from our true identity as spiritual beings, the more efficient, productive, and harmonious our lives will become.
© L. Dwight Turner 2009/All Rights Reserved