Thanks to Handlebar for a review copy of Ordering Your Private World.
“We have smart phones, sticky notes, computerized calendars, and schedule planners to help us organize our business and social lives. But what about organizing our inner lives — our private worlds?”
That’s the blurb on the back of Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald.
As a very introverted person, I jumped at the chance to review this book, because I’m quite at home in my private world. I may be a quiet observer in most aspects of life, but I’m always keenly observing and having my own little party inside my head. Loneliness is a pretty foreign concept to me, not because I’m always surrounded by people, but because I enjoy my own mental company so much.
And despite the fact that our inner worlds (or inner gardens, as MacDonald often refers to them) are often hidden to others, they’re vitally important. MacDonald quotes C. S. Lewis:
The battle is lost or won in the secret places of the will before God, never first in the external world … Nothing has any power over the person who has fought out the battle before God and has won there … I must get the thing settled between myself and God in the secret places of my soul where no stranger intermeddles, and then I can go forth with the certainty that the battle is won.
In this book, MacDonald urges us to order our internal world: “We are all too tempted to buy gadgets with the hope that they will bring tidiness of life. But it doesn’t work that way. Forget the gadgets and start with the interior, the private world.” He mentions bringing up this topic to a Christian friend, who asked, “What is the inner life anyway?” The author was saddened at this, saying that no matter how often we attend church or “do good” in the world, if we don’t have a solid, dependable inner communication with God, our claims to Christianity are worthless.
MacDonald mentions a missionary who headed to a dangerous, primitive area in Africa. Despite all the trials she faced, she nurtured her inner life, and wrote that despite all this, “I had such a comfortable quiet night in my own heart.”
He contrasts King Saul with John the Baptist. Saul was all about controlling situations, while John the Baptist took events as they came, in a peaceful, accepting way. In the same way, we should see our life events as ordained and chosen by God, and seek to accept them as God’s will for us.
As Americans, we can get caught up in busy-ness and “doing.” I get sidelined by this myself. Recently I was thinking about how my girls were growing up, and wondering what my life purpose was. Did I really have a purpose? I wasn’t working (well, not full-time outside the home) anymore. But MacDonald urges us to change our perspective, again quoting Lewis:
Don’t be too easily convinced that God really wants you to do all sorts of work you needn’t do. Each must to his duty “in that stage of life to which God has called him.” Remember that a belief in the virtues of doing for doing’s sake is characteristically feminine, characteristically American, and characteristically modern … What feels like zeal may be only fidgets or even the flattering of one’s self importance.
I found this section of the book had lots of good thoughts, and recently God has shown me some examples of this in my own life.
MacDonald emphasizes the importance of continuing to grow and learn throughout our lives. I loved this, probably since this is my tendency anyway. I always am amazed when I see articles pop up touting the fact that a large percentage of the population leaves school and never reads another book.
“What a beautiful thing to see,” writes MacDonald: “a human being in God’s world with a sharpened mind, having opened every page with insight and truth. Hold on to instruction, Proverbs says, and do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.”
There’s just a lot of good food for thought in this book — ideas for organizing your inner life, yes, but also anecdotes and discussion about what goes on in our lives beneath the visible surface.
This is a great book to linger over. I read just a chapter each day, so I could have time to think about the concepts discussed. Recommended to all my fellow introverted Christians — and extroverts too.