If what we most need is to dig deep into our hearts to replenish what has been whittled away over the past several years by the pandemic and more, what gets in the way of that? Certainly, there is no one answer to that. We may know little of our heart beyond feelings we view as emanating there. We may fear what we might find there. We might have forgotten that it is where Christ dwells if we are believers and yet never really experienced what that might be like. We pray looking up toward heaven or beside us where we hope He is without going to the place He lives by his Holy Spirit according to scripture.
To get there means we need to quiet ourselves without and within and that can also be a challenge for many of us. Even during lockdowns, there was quite a lot of internal noise going on as our fears and anxieties were stoked by every new report or crisis. Some of us love silence and the spiritual discipline of solitude, but that is not true for everyone.
To dig deep and gain or regain strength and resilience, we cannot start through a list of “to do’s.” That keeps things in a far too cerebral place to reach the well of living water Christ places within us when He dwells there.
“It’s important we remember that the strength that prevails is a strength given to us by God. This is not something we can conjure up. It’s not gritting our teeth and doubling down. You’ll hear athletes talk of digging deep when some great contest is upon them. Soldiers use the same phrase, and it’s good in the way it describes tapping into our deepest resources. But the similarity ends there, for the strength we are after is a supernatural strength that rises up from the God who not only created us but dwells within us.”John Eldredge
I love that solid truth reminder. Any of us in a crisis knows that we cannot simply look at what we learned in a small group, podcast, seminar, or retreat and pull those gems out to use very easily. They are good things, but we need something nearer than that and generally we are too depleted and worn to even recall them at the point. Additionally, old relational wounds can make it hard to share what is going on with others. Even in the body of Christ we have some of those wounds because our brothers and sisters are sometimes (maybe often) better at offering suggestions than listening to our hearts that are breaking, weary, or in torment. All those good suggestions, scripture passages, and promises to pray are needed, but at the point of crisis, most people need a safe place to be heard and loved well. That tends to happen most easily with someone who has journeyed with us on good days and bad so they can lovingly see blind spots that are adding to the crisis we are in.
John Eldredge gives readers a framework to help us find that place within where we most need to go when we need supernatural strength and replenishment in his latest book, Resilient. He suggests that there are “levels of our being” and describes them in ways that make so much sense in seeing the obstacles we face to digging deep.
“You have fleeting thoughts throughout the day, most are insignificant.
The Shallows of our being are characterized and rules by the distractions of life. In the Shallows we flit from thought to thought, distraction to distraction, almost unpredictably.
This is most people’s mental life nowadays – a fluttering array of randomly distracting thought flitting along like a thousand butterflies. Those are the Shallows of your existence.”John Eldredge
Nicholas Carr and Richard Powers wrote about that in their book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. Some of you may have read about this or heard interviews that speak of how our attention has been impacted by all the clicking we do on one device or another. But even before those devices came into being, we had those tendencies. It happens to all of us. We are headed somewhere in our car and pass something or hear something we are listening to, and it reminds us of something else that reminds us of something else. Sometimes we can take a detour for one of those and lose track of the time and our original destination or miss a street sign or even a stoplight.
The Shallows can create havoc throughout our day and even invades our quiet times more often than we would like. But there is a second layer of being within us that is also an obstacle to digging. This one is even harder for us to get through on our way to the deep place within our heart.
“You also have longings, hopes, and dreams that are far more important.
The Midlands are characterized and ruled by what I, echoing Jesus’ words, would call ‘the cares of life,’ the deeper worries, heartaches, longings, and aspirations that occupy the human heart.
Things like the health of your aging parents, the learning struggles of your children, the status of troubled relationships, the progress of your career or lack thereof. Your finances, your own health, your health, your hopes and fears for your future or the future of your loved one.”John Eldredge
Bingo! We all can identify with the list Eldredge gives and may have more to add. Beyond these two levels or layers is the deeper place within where Christ dwells for believers. So, what are the depths and what are the things they exhibit?
“Deeper still, down in the ‘depths of your being,’ is the essence of your existence, and the dwelling place of God…
The Depths are characterized and rules by eternal things like faith, hope, love, and joy, to name a few.
We all have a deep inner life, whether we pay attention to it or not…”John Eldredge
Reading Resilient by John Eldredge has spoken deeply to my heart and the Resilient addition to Eldredge’s free “One Minute Pause” app with brief morning and evening help to regain resilience. You have read other things from these sources this past week and don’t be surprised if they inspire several more posts here.
“Come to me, all of you, who are weary and carry heavy burdens.”Matthew 11:28 (NLT)