Every human is familiar with inner conflict. The sensations, emotions, thoughts, ideas, and values that we have don’t always align or work together. We try to find unified ways to think and live, and yet, internal conflict resolution doesn’t always come naturally.
During a crisis of faith for someone questioning and leaving Christianity, this confusion can be tumultuous.
Perhaps an inner voice of reason, mixed with fear, points out that it’s a serious question of salvation and faithfulness to God. “I can’t rest until I find answers.”
Yet the heart and body may be weighed down to their limit with anxiety and grief, and need times to rest. Times to be present and attune with the things that calm and enliven us. Times to spread our focus more broadly on the things we need to do in our lives, for ourselves and for others.
The voice of reason may conclude, “There is no clear reason to worship Jesus, so I can’t.”
The heart may accept this, with eager love for God and truth. But maybe some part of the heart still says, “I want to cling to the person who seemed to be my loving shepherd, closest friend. I looked only to him to understand me fully, with unwavering love. I thought he was God! How can I stop seeing him as my comfort, joy, and hope?”
This feeling may not be logical, helpful, or acceptable. However, it’s fed by deep and legitimate yearnings for secure love, and may grow stronger if suddenly exiled to a distant corner of the mind.
Logic says, “I can’t be part of the church, then.” But for some people, something in the heart might say, “I don’t want to be torn from the belonging and friendship I’ve found in the Christian community. That’s where my place was, my identity, even my language for connecting with others. And my friends won’t see light on any other path I take.” If we had found a good community and let our roots grow deep, then there may be wounds and loss in separating from it.
One part of the heart says that it’s beautiful to seek God and truth with new clarity and freedom. A blessing to learn so much from the Jewish community, and finally let go of unjust beliefs about them. Perhaps another part of the heart is still in mourning.
And when the foundations of the faith we once had are taken out from under us, logic may ask if we can still see solid reasons to trust in God at all. When pain or fear beset us, though, something deep in the heart still calls straight to God, for help and shelter.
The conflict may be different in some ways for each person, but it does affect many of us.
What can we do with this? Without cooperation between our inner parts, we might become overly rigid, suppressing emotions and ignoring unfamiliar perspectives. Or we may become chaotic, letting strong emotions drive us unrestrained, or letting them cripple us. We might go back and forth between rigidity and chaos.
The more logical part of ourselves can help by becoming a gentle leader of decision making. Collaborating with and empowering the other parts within, rather than treading them down.
Without compromising what matters in the commitment to reason, we can still let our hearts and intuitions express themselves, rather than silencing them. We can let painful emotions be felt, and release them, in whatever place some beauty and peace may meet them. We can find our way in the overlap between what is right and what we desire. Only then may we be able to follow wisdom passionately, wholeheartedly, and with joy, in positive expressions of what we most yearn for.
The heart can lead too, by finding the rhythms of wellness in our lives. We can’t seek truth or serve God if we’re wearing ourselves out and losing our minds.
The music of wisdom balances deep thoughts with more ordinary ones. It alternates between effort and surrender. There is work and there is rest. There are short times of speaking, followed always by listening. Sometimes learning flows rapidly, and at others we grow slowly as the trees. The heart can find these rhythms, and gradually grow into them, when we pay attention to where we find wellness. We can only move forward freely towards our goal as we learn to fall in time with this music.
And when it comes to effort and surrender, surrender comes first. We can only offer what we are given.
Nothing more could be expected than that. And what we are given is very near to us, in the here and now, within us and all around us, taking us by the hand.