Evagrius Ponticus (an oldie but goodie) is credited with this counsel, "If you want to know God, learn to know yourself first!" His wisdom echoes that of the Desert Fathers (and Mothers). These saints ran to isolation, not solely as an escape from surrounding corruption, but to seek God within the solitude of their cell.
When I first read Evagrius' recommendation, I challenged it as sounding too Oprah-esque. It smacked of pop psychological self- awareness. If Evagrius simply wants us to experience self-fulfillment, then his words can be dismissed or put on the "self-help" shelf in book stores. But this 4th century monk is not advising that we find our own voice. He points us inward that we may hear God's.
Trace God's methods in the Scripture and note the three times God reveals Himself through flesh and blood. When God created Adam and Eve, He placed His image upon all humanity. We messed that up rather quickly, so God perfected His image irrevocably in Jesus Christ - an incarnation. But the story doesn't end there. Those who belong to Jesus become a third expression of God in the flesh. We are His temple, Christ dwells within us. That is the profound truth Evagrius points to. If we want to know God, we can see Him - sculpted in nature, fleshed through humanity, realized in Christ, declared by His Word, portrayed by the faith community; but in a way that is far more personal - He whispers within my own body and soul. So if I want to know God, I don't have to go far. I can look within.
All of that is root. Here is the fruit. Proverbs commands us to guard our heart - to feed it, nurture it, direct it, protect it, know it. Why? Because the stuff of life flows from our hearts. The things that matter to me and to God are streamed from the deep crevices of my soul. It has taken me years to understand that well. I tended to live externally, where things are easier to measure and control. I was fooled by the apparent clarity of externalized spirituality. (Do this, don't do that). Like many others I rarely tended to the internals of my chest. It is too dark down there - messy and mysterious. I checked the oil of my vehicle far more frequently than I did the state of my heart. God decided to change that. With gentle strength and a wrestling match He would not lose - God has taught me this: not only does He dwell in the shadows of my soul, but that is where He does His best work! If I want to hear His Voice or observe His Hand, I turn within. Prayer becomes my devotional dipstick. It reveals and reforms the foundation of my living. So I come full circle and conclude, Evagrius was right. Not bad for a guy who never watched Oprah.