The ladder to the Kingdom is hidden within you, and within your soul. Dive down into yourself, away from sin, and there you will find the steps by which you can ascend.
– St. Isaac of Syria
For most of us the way up is by climbing the the ladder of success. This almost always takes us into comparison, competition, judgment, and expectation with our neighbor as well as our self. The interior life, however, asks us to first descend, to dive down into our self – not the self of the ego but the Self that was created in the image and likeness of God. This diving down is nothing less than letting go of all the things that we think give us identity and success. Ultimately, it asks us to trust God’s work more than our own work.
The spiritual journey is one of paradox. So the way down becomes the way up. What would it be like to approach each moment and each realtionship without comparison, competition, judgment, or expectation?
Failing at some really big things–becoming a professor and getting ordained–rubbed my nose in the necessity of making the contemplative life primary. Plus I have more time for it than I would otherwise.
Still lots of residual bitterness at academia and the church, but I’m hard-pressed to think of a single professor or (non-retired) priest whose life I really envy.
interior life in the perspective of the Gospel is very difficult to practice in this modern world but we can do it so if we are willing to be part of Christ’s life.