Usually when we think of a destination we think of a place up ahead, a place we are moving towards and one that we will reach in the future. As a spiritual seeker, this had always been the nature of the paths I had known, and defined the limits of my journey. I was always looking to the future, to the next location, or the next moment, and hoping I might find what I was looking for, a resting place for my soul. Yet, while these paths were often exciting, the peace I sought was always fleeting, the destination was always still up around the next bend; always up ahead but never attained.
In the case of this spiritual destination, however—salvation in the Kingdom of God—it is immediately at hand, present now within our very heart. As Christ proclaims, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” His Kingdom is at hand, however, not all of us enter it now. The gift and power of God acting in our lives is a mystery that is beyond my understanding, though I can say that He changed me after my baptism and chrismation. The Holy Spirit, the gift and person that Christ promises us, which He gives for comfort and to enable us to do His will, is surprisingly real and life-changing. The Holy Spirit enables us finally to do our part, giving us the power to fulfill the human aspect involved in entering this Kingdom, which includes doing all of the commandments of our Lord, our faith in action, if we desire it.
I remember back to the river adventure I had experienced while in the community with MD. Beneath the surface turbulence of the river, there was a strong underlying current, a power carrying me along. I couldn’t see it, though I could feel it; the waves obscured any vision into the water’s depths. Similarly, though the light of God is always present and available to shine into my own depths, I cannot see into these depths because of the turbulence I allow to confuse and agitate my inner being, because of my attachments in this world, my idols, my loves apart from that for God alone; and because of my passions, my vices which stir up the waters of my inner life, making them murky and impenetrable to the light of God. Through inner warfare with all of these things, I can turn from them, control them or destroy them, and bring light into my soul. Using the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and with faith in His power, I can with the tool of prayer, sweep my inner dwelling clean, and make it a place for Him to dwell.
I have two little examples to share about this warfare, and the use of prayer in gaining victory over the things that stir up our inner kingdom of sin, and keep us from dwelling in the true Kingdom. One is an observation of impure inner thoughts and how they link together to form battalions of vice which work mischief inside us, and desire our destruction. Hopefully I can communicate this idea clearly enough to be useful; I call this observation, “Catching a Demon with His Pants Down”:
I was walking to my truck today and as I passed another man on the sidewalk, we said hello to one another and continued on our way. He looked me in the eyes and in a subtle flash of a moment I noticed that something inside me averted my eyes, and didn’t want to be seen. His gaze, like headlights—my lies and deceits, like a deer—stood frozen for a quick moment, exposed and afraid under his momentary gaze, until this something inside me convinced me to look away.
Who was that, what was that within me? There was no specific shame, no specific thought or image that ran for shelter inside me, but a general fright caused this little panic, and caught my interest. As I continued walking, I decided not to let this little shifty creep off the hook, I decided to pursue this poltergeist within me to see of what it is made, from where it came, and to where it fled.
And here’s how to catch a demon with its pants down. They first and foremost don’t want to be seen, as they do their dirty work. So if you catch them, don’t let them hide. Keep them under the bright light of scrutiny until they melt away. To do this I considered, ‘what was it that caused me to look away just now’ and coupled with that consideration, I used imagination to consider, ‘what would have to be different inside me in order to not feel the impulse to look away’, and by this method I triangulated the tiny monster and exposed him briefly in my mind’s eye—he was Judgement I have against other people, not against this man I met on the sidewalk in particular, but general judgement I hold towards life, as if to say, “I could do the world better”.
And this realization then exposed Judgement’s comrade, Pride, which then showed me Complaint and Selfishness as well. They were all there, like a haze covering my vision, or like scales over my eyes. They hated to be seen; and I saw how they pulled the strings behind the scenes, distorted my vision of life, and caused me intuitively to feel ashamed, due to the knowledge that my vision is distorted because of them, and I’m not as I should be, so long as they act with impunity in the shadows within me.
Then I envisioned what I would be if I was without them, and extrapolated that out to imagine what would the world be without them? And this led to a prayer, a request and desire, written as a poem, for just this type of me, and this type of world:
An Economy of Purity
I don’t want to be a purveyor of judgement;
a vendor of complaints.
Nor do I wish to do business in arguments;
making transactions in rights and wrongs—
Or assessing the value of others,
based on their utility for me.
I wish to see into your eyes,
and have you look into mine;
trading in trust and purity,
Making our livings
And by this method, and similar ones, we can catch the demons with their pants down, and make the world a better place within us.
We are told in Scripture to bring every thought within us captive, because in the light of day these thoughts can’t act out, and once light is shone upon them, then we are able to turn from them, or destroy them, or refute them until they go away; and once they are gone, we gain a little more of ourselves, carve out a little more peace and stillness inside for the indwelling of holiness, and the life of God within us.
This second observation came about as I watched my attachment to things in the world; how I make idols of creation, and draw myself away from God. I find that prayer is a powerful way to overcome this tendency, and realign myself again with the Lord. Again, I hope to be able to communicate something elusive here, in a way that has some benefit:
Where does your mind wander? Have you ever witnessed your consciousness extending out beyond yourself, becoming lost in the world of what you see, and what you hear, taste, touch or smell? Have you noticed? Have you watched this as it happens, been attentive to the way you lose yourself in your thoughts throughout the day?
And what happens when you pray, can you find yourself again? Have you felt your consciousness return to you when you walk alone beneath the trees, or when you meditate upon the truth of Love? What peace do you feel, when all that you’ve scattered abroad in this wide world comes back to you and rests safely again within your heart? You are yours once more…
I saw myself leave myself today; extending my thoughts to the objects of my love, reaching out with my soul, dissipating my concentration and my energy just a little bit; so I prayed with thanks to God for all things, and called upon His mercy. As I prayed, I felt myself returning to myself, and I felt peace; and I saw more clearly the objects of my love, as they exist outside of myself, but didn’t allow myself to be drawn out of my heart by any of them. As I prayed, I could love them without strings attached; simply with freedom and in purity.
When you lose yourself, if you do, have you ever tried to make prayer your constant companion; letting the words of your prayer and the meaning beneath the words permeate you, protect you, and draw you back in again? Do you call upon God’s grace continually, or struggle towards that goal? It is a difficult habit to inculcate but one that promises to add peace to our steps.
(to be continued)