Dear Keith,

How come some people like you keep going into your inner life and wrestling with deep problems all the time and yet claim to have the Holy Spirit?  I don’t do this, and I’m a happy committed Christian.  My wife is like you and says I’m just not sensitive to spiritual things.  But I know some great Christian leaders who say they don’t have to wrestle the way you do (and they imply that your faith must not be very strong if you have to wallow around inside yourself after you become a Christian).

How about this?  Who’s right, you or them?


That’s a good question.

I believe that there are (at least) two basics types of personalities.  One (of which I’m an example) is the person who must look at the inner struggles and the meaning of the darkness and light he (or she) sees within—almost for survival.  I can no more help my need to find out what life behind my face is like—however scary the darkness or however unacceptable the discoveries—than I can stop breathing.  When I became a Christian, I was told to confess my sins against God and other people and ask forgiveness.  To do that I have had to go inside to recall how and when I had hurt other people and God (because I couldn’t remember many sins.  And it was very difficult for me to go to people I had harmed, confess my sin against them and ask them and God for forgiveness.  But when I finished that task, I experienced a new kind of freedom and love for other people and for God that I just hadn’t experienced before.  And the big surprise was I even loved myself more easily.

Those of us who are like this often see the Gospel in terms of a struggle between light and darkness within.  We come to God with the question (whether we can articulate it or not): “Will the light overcome the darkness or will I be overwhelmed?”

When we are grasped by the Living Christ inside where the world cannot see, we suddenly realize that we are loved and that the Light is and will always be victorious in the end.  At such times we can live with and face more often the darkness within ourselves and in the world we see outside of ourselves.  And we have a fresh passion to tell the story and sing the song that there is Light, Life and Hope in Jesus Christ, for those who are compelled to face the mystery of life.

On the other hand, there are many people (no one knows which group is larger because we don’t talk much about our inner fears and longings) who live their whole lives being primarily conscious of the world and people outside themselves.  These men and women may get baptized and confirmed but not think much about what is going on inside their own lives and motives.  Some of these may come to God in a different way if and when they experience first hand a situation or relationship they can’t control in their outer circumstances.  But as long as they can’t see evidence that they are powerless to save themselves, they may not ever be aware that they actually need a savior.  They feel that they can help God get his work done.  And these people often get lots done in the Church and in the world and may become great leaders in the church.

But I think that for either group to claim that its way is the way is a kind of spiritual blindness and naiveté.  For those of us who must go on the inner journey to discover and confess to God and ask forgiveness for their sins and harm we have caused in the past there is a Gospel of redemption and possible reconciliation with those we have harmed.  And for those who—for whatever reason—are not compelled to open themselves to the depths within, I would bet that there is also a Gospel of Redemption and Love that I don’t understand (because of the amazing grace of God I have experienced when I didn’t even know what I needed).  I just don’t know how those people discover the sins of the past that they have done or know what to confess and with whom they need to be reconciled.  For years I had no idea that I was hurting the people I loved most with my self-centeredness, so I could not hear what it means to hear the words, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healthy.” (James 5:16)

Your question was who’s right—you or them (those Christian leaders who don’t have inner issues).  I’m sorry I can’t help you.  I feel closer to God and more at peace than I ever have but I am also more aware of the power  of my self-centeredness and need to be right, and how much more I need God’s help in order not to try to fix people who are different from me.

Thank you for writing.  I hope this is a good time in your life.  If you ever find yourself having to deal with inner problems in your life or religion, write again.  I might be able to help more then. 

Lord, thank you for the wonderful diversity among your children and that you evidently love and communicate with every personality as each can hear you.  Remind me when I need it that my way of approaching you is not the only way to approach you.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Have you been loved well by someone? So well that you are secure that person will receive you and will forgive your worst fault? That’s the kind of security the soul receives from God. When the soul lives in that kind of security, it is no longer occupied with technique. We don’t condemn people who don’t do it our way. All techniques, spiritual disciplines are just fingers pointing to the moon. But the moon is the important thing, not the pointing fingers.

– Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs

Im hoarse from calling for help, Bleary-eyed from searching the sky for God.

– David, Psalm 69:3, The Message

I’m happy from the inside out, and from the outside in, I’m firmly formed.

– David, Psalm 16:9, The Message

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