Some people have this view of me as fearless and independent. From the outside I understand it: I had purple hair at my Harvard interview, I travel solo, and I've been known to depart from a crowd when I preferred a different activity - sometimes trailing fellow renegades.
But from the inside looking out, I've almost never called myself independent because of this:
I spent so much of my life worried about what people thought of me.
When I look over the landscape of my varied and colorful life, I see a constant pendulum swing between being myself and wanting to be liked and accepted.
The thing is, the times that I was fearlessly independent were the times when greatness happened.
Psychological and emotional maturity is the ability to make the healthiest and best choice for ourselves instead of constantly seeking outside approval. It's a necessary component of self-confidence and strong boundaries. And that can only come from shifting our decision-making process from an externally-driven one into an internally sound one.
That's why there's something really uncomfortable about the way prayer is interpreted and modeled in many churches.
where does god dwell?
There's a way in which we're taught to pray outwards towards an external God that dwells upon the high heavens, and not intimately within us as the Holy Spirit.
This happens when the cry to lean not on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5) is interpreted too literally and out of context - and I don't only mean within the scriptural context but within a spiritual context.
When we're asked not to lean on our own understanding, people behave as if it means we don't know any better and will never have access to this higher knowledge or larger, loving perspective - the analogy of an ant trying to understand the human is often inserted here.
Where does Christ dwell? On a cloud looking down?
Try in your hearts through faith (Ephesians 3:17). That's right. Your roots grow down in love, not up and out into some mysterious presence in the ether, where who knows what happens to it.
Over and over we're reminded (particularly by John) that Christ is in us now.
Yet Sunday after Sunday we pray to a distant God, petitioning him as if he's a department chair who must approve our senior theses. (I've been interviewing applicants to Harvard all month and have college on my mind.)
I do this constantly - asking for a sign from the outside, a sign my eyes can see in the external world, a word I must hear from outside of me in order to believe.
It's no better than caring what other people think. No better than living for the world.
In the same way psychological maturity allows us to think independently and make healthy decisions on our own, spiritual maturity includes the ability to attune to the inner voice - the still, small one - and to live by that truth instead of relying on external opinions and approval.
The only way to be true to Christ in his truest form, is to be true to the Spirit within you. So the next time you pray, try going inward to the very heart of the matter.
Remember the Christ within.