E. Scott Peck in one of his books quotes St. Therese of Lisieux as saying, “If you are willing to serenely bear the trial of being displeased to yourself, then you will be for Jesus a pleasant place of shelter.” Peck says this is one of the most profound pieces of psychological wisdom he has ever read. This is the opposite of what most religious folks believe. We have a hard time to admit, while living with the reality that we are displeased with ourselves. This is especially true for us men. Fear on our spiritual journey can almost paralyze us, especially the fear of not measuring up what we think might be a “spiritual” standard for our walk with God. Again the words of I John 4:18 come to mind. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” The Message reads in part, “There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear.”
One of the greatest struggles on my spiritual journey has been wanting to become a better Christian man, yet struggling with my “badness.” It seemed easier to just deny the bad in myself and push it into the dark recesses of my soul, then go on trying to measure up. This became a great burden when I felt I had to preform well spiritual as a pastor. How could I accept and acknowledge that I had a “dark side” that was hidden as I presented an outward “shining” spiritual self. I tried to live with “the lid” on the bad inside. This caused me to live in shame and guilt. I was not sincere and open in my responses to people. I was trying to be someone, while attempting to deny who I was on the inside
Thankfully, I have, in these latter years, begun to take “the lid” of the bad inside. This has resulted in several significant changes, that the Holy Spirit has formed in my character. I do not take any of the credit. My part is to respond in love and obedience to the Lord in the order. First, I sense that I am more authentic. I can just be me. I am not as afraid to admit and share the struggles I have had and continue to have with my “dark side.” That takes a lot of pressure off my preforming. One more noticeable aspect of my daily walk has been the evidence of joy. Since I can be myself with other people, there seems to be the emergance of a more joyful spirit. I can take myself more lightly, while being more focused on those I am with. The result is more freedom to just enjoy relating to others. The result seems to be joy, something that I always wondered about in my walk with God. Jesus promised us joy. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11)
So men, take heart. No matter how dark you might think your inner life may be, you can be for Jesus, “a pleasant place of shelter.” In other words, Jesus will not adandon you. He has come to take up residence in the deepest part of your being. He sees the good, the bad and the ugly. It is his love for you, in those deepest parts of your soul, that will persuade you to open up the door to those places within and let his love bring healing. This was part of Paul’s prayer when he prayed that we might have power, “together with all the saints, to grasp how wide, and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Eph 3:18). This love abides in your deepest soul. It forms a “pleasant place of shelter” for Jesus. So don’t be afraid of the darkness within. Jesus is already there.