There is a peculiar aspect to the human experience that we all share. We wall wrestle with some form of inner conflict. This reality that is found within our own souls is a frustrating one, to say the least. However, for a while now, I have contemplated this issue of inner conflict, making attempts to understand it. And once understanding it, hoping to embrace it. To me, inner conflict is similar to hypocrisy, but I believe it goes a little deeper. It is the emotional response that we feel because of our hypocrisy. Inner conflict is when we feel, or think a certain way, yet behave differently. But it is also when we seemingly feel and think two (or more) different ways at the same time. This causes a strange feeling of uncertainty which can cause anxiety and fear in us.
For me, I usually experience inner conflict in regards to my ambitions in life. For example, I want to plant a church because I am deeply in love with God and people, and I want to see God transform lives through my life. But to be honest, at times, my own selfish desires can creep into that noble dream. And at certain moments I wonder if I simply like the idea of having the attention and being seen as a hero?
What makes inner conflict so interesting to me is that it is a conflict that lives in our own home. It is found within our very selves, against our own wishes. To me, the self is my most trustworthy companion. I can feel safe with my self and I can trust that my self desires what is best for Nate. So it is scary when we sense inner conflict and we feel we can’t even trust ourselves anymore. What a strange dynamic that it is even possible to be at war against our very own desires, thoughts, and motivations. Yet, for some reason, there is something beautiful to me about this reality of the soul. It almost illuminates the complex nature that we are as human beings.
No man ever steps in the same river twice. You see we are constantly changing. As we make more experiences throughout life, our understanding of the world, and our selves, change. I believe that we feel the tension of our desires and opinions shifting and molding as we grow, and that can be uncomfortable. I typically would respond to inner conflict with frustration or contempt. However, since learning to identify the things that make me feel conflicted and embracing them as a part of my process, I feel I have a healthier grip on my emotional awareness. Instead of ignoring, I have learned to lean in to the inner conflicts I feel, because they are real. Not only is the conflict real in us, but they point to the journey that we are on as disciples of Jesus.
The beauty of the Christian journey is that, the moment we decide to follow Christ, we have embraced the divine journey of becoming. We are now permanently aware of what we will become. And thus, more aware of what we currently are and what we don’t want to be.
And that is what kills me. And that is what kills us. But it kills us in order to make us alive to Christ. And that is where Grace comes alive.
Recently, I had a revelation of what the cross symbolizes. Amongst many things, the cross can symbolize this very problem of inner conflict that I am describing. In the cross, we see the perfect balance of the pain and of the joy. It communicates the paradoxical nature of heaven now and heaven not yet. Of death and of resurrection.
And as Jesus commands us to take up our cross daily, I believe it is a symbol that can be used to understand the feelings that we feel. To me, the cross balances me out.
The cross allows me to be deeply aware of the pain and suffering in the world or myself, while also remaining hopeful, joyful, and inspired by the good and the beauty that God is doing in the world.
Balance is necessary so not to be so drunk with joy that our heads are in the clouds and we become disconnected from the hell that people are experiencing in the world today. But also not so depressed that we are disconnected from the Love that God is and from the beauty that He is actively restoring in the world today.
Let us remain fixated on the heavenly reality that awaits us and that we have access to now. Let us never leave those who are oppressed, poor, and in need of a relationship with the God of Love. We have the privilege to carry our cross, host God’s Presence, and to bring healing to a broken world.