A woman celebrating 24-years drug-free stood up at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting that I was attending with a very good friend of mine (who was himself celebrating a courageous 90-days of life drug-free).
She shared that she started using chemical substances when she was 15, and had walked into the life-rescuing doors of NA when she was 21. And it had hit her that morning...she has been sober 4 times as long as she was a user. Cool birthday, huh?
But what cut me to the heart, causing my own self-examination, was what she shared next.
She said, "I was thinking about how screwed up I was when I walked in these doors 24 years ago. And tonight, all I can think about is how screwed up I still am now. Don't get me wrong, the message we live works (if you work the message), but what I am opening up to in this realization is that I don't have a drug problem (he who has ears, let him hear), I have a living problem."
She said some more stuff, but I was drifting off on the truth of this for me. Wow, me too. I have a living problem.
This all came to mind today because I opened up my journal archives and found this little piece below from about this time 4-years ago in 2004. I'm sad to say that I'm still a novice at the inner life. And I'm sad to say that while I have taken some ground on the list of outward things that were a distraction then then, I've replaced them with what I consider in some ways to be an even "shallower" list now.
I want to eat what I want to eat, with no adverse consequences.
I want to change the world by doing what I'm doing, with no major changes.
I want to rest when I'm tired, with no exceptions.
I want to exercise if I feel like it, and still progress physically.
I want to have oneness with God, and I want it to come effortlessly.
I want my wife and kids to think I'm the greatest, whether I am or not.
I want intimate, mutually transforming friendships, and I want them to conveniently fit into my routine.
I'm still a novice at the inner life, which I must admit that even the dabbling that I have done in it has produced the greatest treasures and advancements of my life. But when I look at how focused on external things I was then, and how much I'm focused on external things now...I realize...right along with my sister at the NA meeting...
I have a living problem.
I love you all. And most of you know me enough to know that what was true then is still true now...and paradoxical and difficult as this living in two worlds is...I love this.
Here's the piece from 2004...
“Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.” – King David
“Spiritual people can quickly withdraw inwardly because they never totally give themselves over to outward things.” – Thomas a’ Kempis
“People are hindered and distracted in proportion to how much they involve themselves in external matters.” – Thomas a’ Kempis
“In my inner being I delight in God
“With people, there is the way things really are, and there is the way things are said or seem to be, and they rarely match. Some understand this reality in themselves enough to notice the difference between the two in others.” – Yours Truly
“Your beauty should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God
I am a novice at the inner life. I am still too focused on sharing what I find there immediately with those around me to stay there long enough to enjoy its treasures simply for myself and my God. I am still given over to outward things. Namely…
I want to be respected by people I respect.
I want to be trusted by people I love.
I want to be physically comfortable.
I want to be emotionally comfortable.
I want to be a doer.
I want to see results of my effort with my eyes.
I want to make an eternal difference in people.
All of these things take effort. Outward effort. And frankly, they are easier treasures to get than the inward ones.
What is your list? What are the outward things that are so worthwhile that you see the inward life as something that is “impractical” or “only meant for a few”?
I’m a novice at the inner life, like I said, and while I’m drawn to it these days, I’m scared of what it will cost. My extroversion? My energy? My playfulness? My people skills? These are fears that keep me from getting before God every day. My flesh says that the inner life is boring, no fun, stoic, and reclusive behavior. But my spirit jumps to life when I “go there”, has fun, is fully engaged, and breaths new life and love into my relationships “out here”.
We’re stuck between two worlds in this life, aren’t we? I love this.