The First Circle

Years ago, in college I read a book The First Circle by Aeksandr Solzhenitsyn. Although fiction, the book is also auto-biographical, as the story is about a group of academics who were arrested and forced to work in a labor camp, but who were well fed and had better working conditions than those in other labor camps during Stalin’s Russia, all of which happened to Solzhenitsyn himself. This book impressed me; it was good reading, a compelling story, and one of the required readings for a history class I took. I can’t remember much more of it, except the plot and how much I enjoyed reading it. Being in “The First Circle” meant that this man lived in the outer ring of the circle of the worst, he was living in the best of the worst; it refers to the first circle of Hell in Dante’s Divine Comedy.

I am reminded of this book whenever I think of a group of concentric circles. A ring of concentric circles reminds me that Christ should be at the center of my life. I’ve seen various diagrams of how a Christ-like life should look like, a wheel with spokes and with Christ at the hub, and all else stemming from that focus; I’ve also seen a square with a circle in the exact center, representing Christ, and the squares around representing the emotional, physical, social, and spiritual aspects of our lives.

I imagine it to look like this: (((0))) …and now imagine circular rings flowing from the top and bottom too. I see it almost like a radar signal, or a light flashing, something like a sonar. The center is Christ, and the messages and words and actions flowing forth should reflect that inner part, hidden in Christ. Living Christ-centric, in the inner circle, deep within, He is the center of all other concentric circles that emanate from within. And if he is the center circle, the outer circles, fanning out, will be Christ-centered.

To be Christ-centered means to be soaked in the Word and bathing in prayer. It means to allow oneself to be washed so completely and thoroughly by the Word. It means to empty oneself of “self” and allow the living Christ access to all corners of the mind and heart.

Functioning otherwise is to function mainly in the flesh. Living by the strength of the flesh cannot persist in the long haul. Living focused on Christ is a way requiring perseverance… but character change and transformation into Christ’s likeness is the result. Although challenging, it is a way that can be sustained. God offers many scriptures about persevering and waiting; He knew we’d need it, He knows that this is an ingredient on the journey. Also, as the transformation happens we may be blissfully unaware of it.

As I ponder Christ-centered living, and the rings of concentric circle flowing from my life, I think of this book, and of the first circle. Christ is the first circle emanating from my heart. I can think of myself also walking in the first circle, but not the first circle of hell. I’m living on the planet Earth, and walking closer to Christ, and perhaps I can think of my walk as being on the outer circles of eternal living, as one day I will live in eternity in God’s presence.

Sharing today with Walk with Him Wednesdays at A Holy Experience:

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5 thoughts on “The First Circle

  1. Lovely, Anna! Reminds me of the Rainer Maria Rilke poem, “Widening Circles”

    I live my life in widening circles
    that reach out across the world.
    I may not complete this last one
    but I give myself to it.

    I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
    I’ve been circling for thousands of years
    and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
    a storm, or a great song?

  2. That is a lovely poem, Bristol! I’ve saved it and printed out a copy; it’s a keeper. Thank you for sharing that with me and for your kind encouragement!

  3. How very interesting. I’ve never heard of this book, but it sounds like a good read. And such an apt comparison. Thank you for this visual today.

    1. Laura, I’d like to read it again after the perspective of some years gone by, and still see if I’d like it as much or how I’d react, but my to-read list is already quite long. Yet of many books that have been read, this is one that has stayed imprinted on my mind. It’s on the list–but further down.

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