The Place in My Heart

 photoThere is a place in my heart that I’ve been renovating. It’s been a crowded, noisy and daunting space that has needed much attention. I’ve tried conferences, books, seminars and such where I have learned tips and techniques that promised to help me with my life transformation. All have failed me, save one.I remember thinking that peace was a place somewhere on an island with a beautiful sandy beach with tropical trees and drinking coconut juice from cracked open husks. But I realized as you have also, that as we pack our bags to visit such places that our dirty laundry and inner chaos goes with us. No matter how serene the setting, the interior life can wreak havoc.People use to call their church buildings “sanctuaries.” God knows we need a sacred space to go to from time to time in this busy world we are living in today. But even that word is going the way of the dinosaur. We have stages today, not pulpits; auditoriums, not sanctuaries. We’re terrible confused—we modern people who have come so far, but feel so terribly lost. We are still in search of sacred space—a place where the heart can call home.The old monastics built places in the woods to retreat from the world’s noise. These little cabins were called “hermitages” and a Russian word—“Poustinia.” They were small places—simple spaces with no distractions, no competing sources of entertainment. They were rustic. Simple. Inviting. Safe.So, this year, our ministry has set out to build a Poustinia at our retreat in Colorado. It’s a small 12x16 log sided cabin with a green metal roof where you can hear the rain as you gaze out on Pike’s Peak, a snow capped mountain today over 14,000 feet in the air. There’s a small covered porch where one rocking chair will be placed. This little cabin in the woods is the modern day answer to the modern day plague that has infected the beautiful souls of we—the modern, wired and always “on” people. To be clear, I am one of you. I am not a monk nor am I thinking of becoming one.But one thing I do know, the building of the Poustinia for me, is an outward symbol of an inner reality that is going on inside of me. As the Poustinia is taking shape, I feel the same thing happening in me. My soul is taking shape. It would seem like I would and perhaps should have gotten my soul in shape by now. But in all honesty, it takes a long time for a saint to be made.My Poustinia is really a space within me. It is a space I need to build to connect with God; to relax in my own skin and to be my true self. It is a place of solitude where all of the insanity and chaos of this world, all of the “giddy-up” and let’s hurry faster is left outside. It is a place of shalom—that place of well-being where at last I can be with God and God with me. By going to the little cabin in the woods, I am really on a journey to go to the Poustinia within me—that place that Jesus described so aptly as a closet where you can at last be alone. Be quiet. Be still and know God at last.Competing demands; rivaling priorities and inner chaos flood our lives every single day. We seek balance but know in the end that balance is truly bunk. The journey to go to the Poustinia is a journey that every spiritual master I have ever read about has taken—and has taken alone.Our Poustinia, will have one chair, one table, one bed, one tiny wood burning stove and windows to look out and space to look inside. It is sacred space and in my heart that sacred space is being born.In her remarkable book, “Poustinia: Encountering God in Silence, Solitude and Prayer” which has mentored me in this understanding, Catherine Doherty says, “ have, as it were, a poustinia within you. It is as if within you there were a little cabin in which you and Christ are very close; it is with this attitude that you go about your business. God forbid that you should all become recluses or hermits! That is not what is meant by being a Poustinik in the marketplace. It means that within yourselves you have made a room, a cabin, a secluded space. You have built it by prayer.You should be more aware of God than anyone else, because you are carrying within you this utterly quiet and silent chamber. Because you are more aware of God, because you have been called to listen to him in your inner silence, you can bring him to the street, the party, the meeting, in a very special and powerful way. The power is his, but you have contributed your fiat. He has asked you and chosen you to be the carrier of that silent poustinia within yourself.”So, we are all building a place within our hearts, aren't we?  That is precisely what the work of spiritual formation is all about. More room for Jesus.  That he might increase and I decrease. Let the renovation continue! Copyright@ 2014 Stephen W. Smith. All Rights Reserved.  You may "share" this post but not copy for distribution. Thank you.  Important Note:  All of  our retreats are fully booked for the remainder of the year. We will SOON be announcing news of 2015 retreats and our brand New Soul Care Institute, a two-three year training program.