I have many spiritual directors in my life, and many of them are dead. I think it is still necessary and important to read the ancient writings of spiritual masters because the human life hasn't changed nearly as much as we might think. People haven't gotten more in tune with reality even though we have more information and more complicated relationships and more ways to eat frozen yogurt.
Taking the hand of an ancient wisdom is a way to slow your life down a step or two, joining with centuries of other seekers in learning from masters sent to us from the Master. One of these people is a man named Thomas à Kempis. He wrote a book in the 1400's called The Imitation of Christ that will knock you on your tail.
Recently I was thinking about the act of living in solitude in a world full of noise. I'm not sure if a life of complete solitude is the healthiest life for a Christian to live, nor am I sure it achieves the task charged to the follower in Christ's commission to spread the good news of God's redeeming love for every single person. However, solitude and meditation are extremely important for any spiritual life. The monks, and people like Thomas à Kempis knew that and found complete communion with Christ in their solitude. In his writing, I may have found the balance needed to solve my problem. In The Imitation of Christ, Thomas, in a fit of inspiration, describes what he calls "the interior life." A life of solitude is possible even among community. A life of solitude is possible even in a crowd.
Thomas reminds us that the Kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21), so turn inward and find God. Learn to despise external things and you'll see the blessings of the Lord and the Kingdom of God come upon you. If we are devoted inwardly, we will see Christ. Thomas wrote, "His visits with the inward man are frequent, His communion sweet and full of consolation, His peace great, and His intimacy wonderful indeed."
Too often we concern ourselves with busyness. Too often the schedule-makers and gate-keepers rob us of our joy. Thomas says, "a man is upset and distracted only in proportion as he engrosses himself in externals." Nothing is too important that it cannot wait for the spiritual person to collect him or herself and maintain a well-ordered union with the Kingdom. Christ told us to live by the Word of God and not to worry about the externals because He will take care of us. Discontent, my old nemesis, again rears its head. You can sum up the past few months in my spiritual journey as a battle for contentment, a struggle for satisfaction in the now, and a wrestling match with wanderlust.
This world cares about deadlines and schedules and reports, not the Kingdom. It's important to be useful and faithful where God has you, but not more important than your inner connection with God. A truly interior man or woman is free from uncontrolled emotions and has the ability to turn immediately to God, rise above the noise, and find peace. Isn't that worth fighting for with all of our hearts, all of our souls, and all of our strength? When you are full of the Kingdom of God, you'll overflow and the "good deeds" we earnestly try to accomplish will be much easier to find. Interior joy can only be found if we tie our affection for the things of the world to a giant rock and throw it into the crystal clear ocean of Grace.