Poetry & the Arts
I had edited this week’s chapter of Dr. Ervin Thomsen’s book The Victory over the Beast (I hope you are reading this book as we post it, one chapter per week, in the Features section—it’s awesome!!) before I read the next chapter in The Monastery of the Heart. It is titled “Stability of the Heart” and one passage startled me because it was so similar to something Dr. Thomsen had said.
Chittister had been talking about the inevitable disappointments in this life: “often confusing and blurred, unsure under foot. . . The world around us has tilted and tipped without our permission. [Amen!] Nothing is what it once had been, nothing is what it promised to be.” Then came the passage that struck me:
the way we deal with
whatever happens to us
on the outside
will depend entirely
on what we have become
on the inside.
Wherever we have fixed our hearts,
whatever it is to which we have given them,
will determine the way we experience
all that is happening to us now.
Indeed, it is stability of heart,
not stability of place,
that is the real monastic gift.
Here is what Dr. Thomsen had said:
We usually consider bondage as something external, like a prison or a concentration camp. But bondage can also be internal; we are held captive by patterns of thinking and by the experiential beliefs we hold. We see this kind of bondage most obviously in the loss of our freedoms through unforgiveness, bitterness, and resentment toward others – arising, not from people who have offended us, but from within ourselves by our failure to forgive.
He writes in this chapter about these inner patterns of thinking becoming “idols” in the spirit of “Babylon-living.” And what is an idol, if it’s not something “to which we have given our hearts”?
I was struck by this in part because I used to live in a prison created by patterns of thinking imposed on me when I was so young that they were internalized without my will or understanding. It took gentle and persistent counseling to help me dig all the way to the source and figure out the false attitudes and ideas about myself and the world that were holding me captive even though I did choose to forgive and be forgiven; I did accept God’s love and acceptance of me—indeed, I depended my entire self on God’s opinion of me—it was the only thing that kept me alive!
Where, then, do you get this “stability of heart”? Both this week’s writers agreed:
Thomsen: “The wounds inflicted upon you by the offenses of others can be healed. Jesus understands, because He has experienced everything you are going through. When He died on Calvary’s cross, it was not only for the forgiveness of your sins, but He also carried your griefs and sorrows (Isaiah 53:4). Jesus can heal your woundedness by replacing your hidden and cherished inner lies with His truth. ‘The truth shall set you free,’ and ‘you shall be free indeed’ (John 8:32, 36).”
Chittister: “. . .there is only one invariant on which we must depend: the steadiness—the stability—of the heart of God.”
Thank God that great heart is stable! No matter how we tremble and waver, if we cling like a limpet to God’s loving heart, we will be safe.
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