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.
These powerful words, from the beginning of Thomas Kelly’s Testament of Devotion, are words that I have come back to over and over again for over 30 years. And especially now, in the midst of this pandemic, these words remind me that God is always present with us, wherever we are, and offers us all a holy place to which we may continually return, an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul.
I know for a fact that these words have sustained me for over 30 years because I journaled about these same words back in 2004, sharing then that I had been returning to these words for 15 years. When I reflected on these words in 2004, I was thinking about two people important to my spiritual formation, Thomas Merton and Thomas Kelly. One is a Catholic monk, and the other is a Quaker educator, and they both have been profoundly influential to this Lutheran pastor. Here is what I wrote in my journal back in August of 2004:
It’s very freeing to realize that no matter what is going on in my outward life, I can always return to my inner center and know God in my depths. As Thomas Kelly put it, “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 continually return.” These are words that I have been returning to for 15 years, and they still speak to me with a freshness and an authenticity that fills me with gratitude. What does it mean to be a Lutheran pastor so shaped by Catholic and Quaker witnesses to the faith? I wonder about that sometimes. But all I can do is yield to this truth, the obvious truth that these witnesses point to, yield to the truth expressed by Merton: “The heart of Catholicism is a living experience of unity in Christ,” accepting this as foundational to all Christian faith. It is that part of me that is Lutheran that reminds me that this unity in Christ is grace – it is gift, it is mercy – but it is also meant to be experienced, surely, and that is what drives me back to those who have articulated that experience, witnesses like Thomas Merton and Thomas Kelly and so very many others, all witnesses to the great good news that Christ is meant to be experienced right now, for today is the day of our, of my, salvation. And so I gladly return to that inner sanctuary of my soul, to my life that is “hidden in Christ with God” (Colossians 3:3). I gladly recognize the truth that “yielding to these persuasions, gladly committing ourselves in body and soul, utterly and completely, to the Light Within, is the beginning of true life” (Thomas Kelly), and I give thanks to God for this grace, this incredible grace, that Christ would come and seek me in the depths of my heart.
I continue to give thanks for this grace, that Christ would come and seek me in the depths of my heart, and that Christ would offer himself to us all in this amazing way. “Eternity is at our hearts, pressing upon our time-torn lives, warming us with intimations of an astounding destiny, calling us home unto Itself.” May we all heed this call, and find true life.