The Well Inside
Most Christians were raised thinking that God is a distant reality to which we need to ascend. They were raised thinking that our job is to make the journey from where we are to where God is. They often viewed this in somewhat crude spatial terms. God is literally in the heavens above, and we are on the earth below. Our job is then to make the quest from here to there through our pious practices, virtuous behavior, and right religious beliefs.
Jewish mystic, Etty Hillesum, who died at the hands of the Nazis in 1943, offers us a much more helpful and gospel-based image of our relationship with God. She writes in her diary, “There is a really deep well inside me. And in it dwells God. Sometimes I am there too. But more often stones and grit block the well, and God is buried beneath. Then God must be dug out again.”
How did she access this well in which dwells the divine? In here diary she writes, “I’ll turn inward for half an hour each morning before work, then listen to my inner voice. Lose myself. You could also call it meditation…So let this be the aim of the meditation: to turn one’s innermost being into a vast empty plain, with none of that treacherous undergrowth to impede the view. So that something of God can enter you, and something of “Love” too.”
The Gospel of John goes to great lengths to tell us that God is not “out there,” but is this well that dwells with in us. Speaking of the gift of the Spirit of truth, Jesus says, “You know (the Spirit of truth) because he abides with you, and he will be in you (Jn 14:17b).”
According to the Gospel of John, the classical tradition of the church, and mystics like Etty Hillesum, God has already come to be with us before we ever try to open ourselves to God. Our journey is not a search for something we don’t have, but something that has already been given to us. The challenge for each of us is to access the God who is in this well. How do we do it? We need to take some time each day to simply listen to this presence deep inside. This is what is required to make our way through the “stones and grit” that block the well.
So why not try this today or tomorrow. Set your alarm for twenty minutes and just sit in silence. If you have small children, this may be hard to do. Maybe it will only be five minutes. But sit and turn your gaze inward to this presence that lives within you. When you get distracted by thoughts, don’t worry. Just return your gaze inward. It might be helpful to repeat a word (love, Mary, Jesus) over and over again as a way to settle yourself and focus your attention. Hang with it until the alarm goes off. If your church or community has a group of people who meet regularly to sit in silence, you might consider joining them. At my church there is a group of men and a group of women who gather every Tuesday morning, 7:00am for about 30 minutes of silence.
Deepening our connection with God is not a quest for what we don’t have; it is about discovering what has already been given. May God lead you to the well deep inside you.