It must have been my sophomore year in college when one cold, winter evening I walked to Beck Chapel at the center of the Indiana University campus, journal in hand, to pray. This was unusual for me. Suffice it to say, I was wrestling with some personal demons, decisions that had compromised my integrity. I was desperate to resolve the turmoil in my soul.
I sat alone in the small chapel and prayed as best I knew how. I reflected on my life and the ways I was torn in so many directions. Quietly some thoughts, intuitions, and images formed in my mind. I wrote them down, and as best I can recall, drew a picture of a deep core that I sensed within me—a core that was good, pure and unblemished, free and clear.
Yet that goodness was obscured by another predominant reality. I drew another circle around that pure center; a larger circle, which represented my life situation, muddled by conflicting passions and pursuits. I knew that the clear center felt primordial; untainted and untouched by all that I’d sampled of sin and alienation from self and God. In that moment, I also knew that in spite of and independent of all this, I was known and loved by God.
Later that evening, I excitedly shared my insights with a couple of friends. Amateur theologians, they quickly corrected me and said, “Oh, no, Beth. At the center of every person is a sin nature.” “Oh,” I replied. “That’s right. Yes, of course.” I quickly closed my journal and buried it, along with the misguided idea that there could be something genuinely good inside me.
Over the years, I’ve continued to struggle with conflicting desires, as well as bad theology about our sin nature and inherent wretchedness. Yet through honest, crystalline moments of reflection and prayer, I found my way home to this pure center again. I relocated the pristine self I was created by God to become. A self that knows God and is known by God.
Thomas Merton called this center “the virgin point,” the place “where one meets God, and which is the glory of God in us.” He goes on to describe it as a “mysterious center of being, a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God.” “Le point vierge”—the “virgin point.”
The Apostle Paul also described this virgin point (in different terms) as the place from which our spirits and the Holy Spirit join in a chorus of joyful acknowledgment that we belong to God! “Abba! Father!” We’re children of God. We’re created in the image of God and called to become who we are at the center—like Christ. (See Romans 8:15-16; Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:4-5, 9-10)
Now I want you to consider something important here: this virgin point exists in every human person. Not just believers in Christ. It is ground zero where any one’s relationship with the triune God begins. It is where the origin of true faith is born, the place from which we turn in faith to Christ to be healed and set free. It is the glory of God within us that compels the Spirit to doggedly pursue us.
What do you imagine God sees within you? God sees something good, someone worth redeeming. When we inhabit this virgin point, it feels like we’ve come home because we have! We’ve come home to our real selves. And we’ve come home to the One who created us and called us into being!
Yet, sadly, so many of us live estranged from our true homeland. We’ve bought into the destructive and alienating belief that we are rotten to the core. Bad to the bone. Totally depraved. This is shame in its most primitive and alienating form—shame that keeps us from God, rather than coming home to God.
What difference might it make if you identified this virgin point within yourself? Would you relate to God and pray differently? Would it heal your deep shame? Your sense of worthlessness? And what difference might it make if you remembered that this sparkling diamond-in-the-rough exists within every person you meet, even those far from God? The answer is obvious. This would change everything!
“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,”
made his light shine in our hearts
to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory
displayed in the face of Christ”
(II Corinthians 4:6).