Maybe you are a thinker. I’m a thinker.
Anyone who knows me well, knows that about me. Some even tease me about it. I examine everything from every angle. For lack of a better way to describe it, I find this both a blessing and a cursing. A blessing, because I know that this is how God has made me. A blessing because I enjoy digging and probing deeply, whether it be in my own soul or my work with another person. A blessing because it leads me to wanting to learn about God, about others, about Scripture, about this world, about…….well, everything.
But it is also a hard thing at times. It means that my mind is rarely, rarely still. I find it incredibly hard to turn off my thinking, to turn off my mind. Times of peace, stillness, quietness of my soul and mind are few and far between. When they occur, I know they are a gift straight from God, because such things are not of my nature. There are many times that I wish I had a switch to turn this mind of mine off for awhile to rest. There are many times that I implore God to grant me quietness, to say “Shh” to my whirling mind and soul.
There is a reason I share all of this. It’s related to the book “Les Miserables”. I ordered a copy of the book (a recent, fantastic translation by Julie Rose, I highly recommend her translation) after surprisingly being so moved by the movie and the stories of grace contained therein. This book is quickly become one of my favorite books of all-time, behind certain books written by my favorite author, C.S. Lewis. For me to place Les Miserables toward the top of my “Books Read” list, especially as a work of fiction, is not nothing–I have a lot of books that I love. But Victor Hugo’s writing has bored itself into my soul. Not many writings do that to me, other than Scripture. (C.S. Lewis’ “Surprised by Joy” is one example of a book that has had a profound impact on my life.)
Reading far into the night Monday, I came upon a passage that I want to share with you. Let me first set the scene.
Jean ValJean, the major character of the book, is faced with an agonizing decision. I’ll not share that decision with you, in hopes that you will read the book. But this man, who had been shown much grace and mercy and had been changed deeply by that grace, must make a difficult decision. He stays up practically all night, debating this decision between his mind and his conscious. In this book, Hugo likens the conscious to God several times. This debate carries on for 16 pages!!! You may wonder, how could anyone read 16 pages of a person debating with himself–I tell you that it is easy to read because it is fascinatingly written. From this section, I share with you this paragraph that I came across the other night:
It is incontestable that we talk to ourselves, there is no thinking being who does not do so. We could even say that talk is never more of a magnificent mystery than when it travels, within a person’s inner life, from mind to conscience–and back again. It’s only in this sense that we should understand the words often used in this chapter: he said, he cried out. We say to ourselves, we talk to ourselves, we cry out inside of ourselves, without the outer silence being broken. There is a great tumult, everything in us speaks, except our mouths. The realities of the soul are no less real for not being visible and tangible.
Whew. I know this to be very true in my own life. And I think, if you consider it a moment, you will probably agree and find it to be truth in your life as well. If we look at the word “conscience” and replace it with “God”, we get an accurate picture of the wrestling that goes on within our souls. We may be thinking a thousand things, fighting tough battles, within our souls that are never uttered verbally–“without the outer silence being broken”. “Everything in us speaks, except our mouths.”
But what I want to add here, is that God knows. Sometimes, repeating that phrase “God knows” in my mind over and over again is the only thing that will still the tumult inside. He knows our thoughts, He sees the battles we fight within our mind. We have scriptural proof of this in Psalm 139:
So when, like Jean Valjean, we find ourselves in a tumult, with a mind that will not settle, with thoughts that will not still–when we find ourselves stirred up in our soul, crying out within us–we can rest assured that, even though we may never utter a word, our God hears, sees, and knows better than we know ourselves.
“The realities of the soul are no less real for not being visible and tangible.”