Monday, December 12, 2011

The Inner Man

The inner man...a very strange concept.  But at the same time, really not that strange.  We all know we are more than just a physical body.  The things that make us who we really are have nothing to do with the 'outside'--you don't have to be religious to recognize this.  What's hard to recognize or believe is that this 'inner' self exists apart from the 'outer'--that what is the true reality of things cannot be seen with the eyes.  Certainly we cannot 'see' what is true about a person with our eyes--but hang around them enough, (especially in a stressful situation) and it usually becomes quite obvious. But to believe this 'inner' person has substance...something real, just like our physical bodies are real...that's a little weird. 

We only know substance as physical; how can something you can't touch have substance?  So if we are to believe in heaven as a real place we go when we die, it has to be somewhere else...someplace far away.  To even suggest that the kingdom of heaven is within you...well, most Christians get really uncomfortable and think this must be some new age theology.  What can possibly be 'within' us but blood and guts?  Our heart is within us, and our heart is the crux of the matter.  What is our heart? Not the beating organ, of course.  Here are some passages that speak of the heart:

"Search me O God, and know my heart, and try my thoughts", "The inward thoughts of every one of them and the heart, is deep", "God saw that every imagination of the thoughts of the heart was only evil continually", "Why do thoughts arise in your hearts?" , "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he".

Scientifically, we know we think with the mind.  If we look at the Bible as a book about science, we will be quite frustrated.  It's my opinion the Bible is not trying to teach us about the physical realm at all, but the spiritual...even though I do think the two are connected.  Hannah Hurnard gives an interesting analogy of this in her book The Inner Man.  She tells a story about a time she was staying at a hotel, and looked out her window.  There, in the water, she could see just as plain as day people playing croquet in a lake.  She knew this was impossible, but it looked so real.  Finally, she realized the optical illusion of a double reflection involving the window (being open, and not closed as she thought) and the water.  The people were real, only they were playing over on the other side of the building, not in the water.  Then the scripture came to her "we look not the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen..."  Here is a quote from the book:

I began to wonder if the Apostle really meant us to understand that the things which we perceive through our five physical senses, are really only a kind of reflection of far more real spiritual things.  And, if so, are the 'outer' men and women visible to our natural sight merely temporary reflections or 'shadows' in the mirror of materiality and time of far more real people--the 'inner man or woman'--the individual spirit dwelling in each human being?..."For though the outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day." 2 Corn. 4:16

This is kind of a freaky thought...that my 'inner' self has a form.  What does it look like?  Imagine that people could actually see and know your thoughts and feelings--that your true nature, intentions, motives and desires were visible?  Yikes, right?  How do we 'renew' this person?  How do we change our nature into something we wouldn't be ashamed of if people could really see it?  I tried for most my life to do it the way I was taught by my your Bible, go to church, pray, tithe, do good deeds.  And when none of this worked in changing who I really was, then I was told, "Well, of course not. We are all sinners, that's why Jesus died.  You can't earn salvation."  How frustrating.  But maybe there is a way to change, AND maybe it doesn't have to do with earning.  Let's hope so...more about that later.