It Might Not Look Like Much, but the Interior Life is Everything

I thought life was too short not to do it all, so I was willing to try anything once. I was always up to something new: apartments, jobs, travel plans, degrees, beliefs. I had long lists of things I wanted to try and places I wanted to visit. But then I converted to the Catholic Faith, had my first baby, and became a stay-at-home mom. I don’t really do a whole lot anymore.

No one calls my parents to say, “You’ll never guess what she did now!” about the soup I made for dinner. No one cheers from the sidelines: “Do it now, while you still can!” when I seize some free time to read. And I don’t send postcards from my adventures in the Land of Croup.

There is still movement aplenty in the form of toddler mischief, blocks flying past my head, and children standing on things they shouldn’t be standing on.

But for the most part, any changes, any “movement,” comes not from doing something exciting in the greater world but from an interior movement of the heart, mind, and will. I’m not crossing borders, but experiencing the slow and often painful movement of the soul toward God.
Our culture is all about the externals. We cultivate bodies and bucket lists as if there will be a crown in heaven for those who looked the best while trekking at Machu Picchu. But in heaven, joy will be found in those quiet fruits of practicing the faith: contemplation, prayer, and adoration.

The inner life isn’t flashy, it’s not exciting, and no one is going to be jealous of the time spent on your knees in prayer. But it’s the real stuff, the good stuff. The hard stuff.

More determination is required to subdue the interior man than to mortify the body; and to break one’s will than to break one’s bones.
— St. Ignatius of Loyola

In seizing freedom and making lists there was little bending of the will, little in the way of sacrifice beyond saving money for the next adventure. And very little stillness.

Now I live on a much smaller, more intimate scale. There are no big trips planned, no promotions, nothing exciting—only the day-to-day attempt at joyful sacrifice and surrender of self. This is harder than the worst of flights, bedbugs, and food poisoning all in one. It doesn’t sparkle with novelty either: the battle against the flesh is an old one.

But this interior movement is everything, even when I am perfectly still, kneeling—not even “standing on my own two feet.” As the spiritual life has grown, the bucket list has shrunk. Sometimes that feels good and right, other times a backpack and a one-way ticket sound pretty appealing.
And those times I remind myself that the real destination sells no postcards, and no one’s clamoring that you should go now before it’s discovered. The crown offered there is sought in the smallest of moments, in privacy and prayer, in the constant and quiet pursuit of what is good and holy and true—and in the denial of self.

“Lord what wilt Thou have me do? Behold the true sign of a totally perfect soul: when one has reached the point of giving up his will so completely that he no longer seeks, expects or desires to do ought but that which God wills.”
—St. Bernard of Clairvaux

image: Mikhail Markovskiy / Shutterstock.com

Denise Renner

By

Denise is a wife, mother, and Catholic convert who writes at The Motherlands. She lives in Oregon with her husband and two children. Denise was raised Lutheran, earned a masters in theology from Southern Baptists, and, finally, was lead to the Catholic faith by her husband.

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage

  • Diane Fiore

    Lovely..exactly where I sit/stand/kneel. A later in life convert, my retirement is spent in similar fashion, and also in Oregon. Thank you for your loving contribution..

  • JohnC

    Denise, Hits the nail on the head for me. I’m in a place I never expected to be and not necessarily by choice. Lot’s of my former life is gone and yet I know I’m so much better off in my interior life. A hard part is wanting this life for others and them repelling what we have as they “enjoy life” and pursue the world’s happiness. Thanks.

  • Vince Whirlwind

    This was a beautiful reflection, you’ve changed me today. Thank you and God Bless you and your family.

MENU