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.

14 thoughts on “An Amazing Inner Sanctuary

  1. We all have a God-shaped hole, so to speak. I also think of Augustine’s famous words from his “Confessions,” “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in You.” Much pain and difficulty ensues when we ignore God and our need for him; much blessedness and peace when we accept it and live out of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ‘God is always with us’ you say. Where? He’s not with me. I would give anything for him to come into my mind and heart and ‘soul’ (whatever the soul is). After losing all of my immediate family I’ve called out to him in suicidal loneliness and prayed in my own way but he touches me not, not in mind, heart or spirit. I remain in a hopeless void of aloneness. I hope you reply to this but I don’t expect one because blind faith can never find the words.

    Like

    1. You are right in saying that blind faith can never find the words. I certainly cannot find the words to respond to your suffering. I am reminded of a passage from the Book of Job, when his friends “sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.” (Job 2:13) Sometimes, there are no words. I can only pray that you have friends who can sit with you, so that you do not suffer alone.

      Like

      1. Thank you for replying to my dark post. Not to indulge in self-pity too much, but no, I have no friends ‘who can sit with me.’ Even if I did, I believe that belief in God must come into one’s mind and heart without any influence from others, for then it could merely be false obeisance, a capitulation to herd instinct rather than a genuine, heart-felt epiphany. My only comfort in the darkness is that my wife, who died two years ago, had faith, and as I held her hand in Intensive Care, the knowledge that she believed she was beginning a new journey saved me from suicide. At least she was safe, she was ‘Somewhere Else,’ or so she believed. As for me, without that miraculous epiphany I mentioned, all I see is a black void of nothingness. It is what it is.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you for entrusting your pain with me in such an honest and heartfelt way. I cannot know your pain or your grief. I cannot even sit with you as a friend. And my prayers for you may not be something you want or even care about. But as a person of faith, that is what I have to offer. Prayers to a God who, I believe, loves us all. Prayers to a God whose son died for us all, who willingly took on our sin and our sense of abandonment on the cross on behalf of all who feel abandoned. I do pray for you, asking that you would one day receive a genuine, miraculous epiphany from the only one who can ever give you that.

        Like

    2. I’m so sorry for the deep pain you are feeling. Sometimes there are just no further words that can bring comfort. The absence of God’s presence is hell. I, for one, know that first hand. Praying for you!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “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.” SO true! It is a comfort and blessing I never want to take for granted. To think, so many of us pass up on the opportunity to sit with Jesus each day and enjoy his presence. It is in this presence that the greatest healing and fellowship on earth can be found. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here today.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to Derek Melanson Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s