Thursday, August 30, 2007

Meditations on the Christian Life

The past couple of days I've been reading my share of Henri Nouwen. He taught at the University of Notre Dame, as well as Yale and Harvard Universities. He later moved to Toronto where he shared his life with people with developmental disabilities. Much of his writings are founded in the intentional thought you would expect from someone with his educational background, yet the core of that which he writes about came as an awareness that came as he laid aside the prestige of his elite status, served the outcast of society, even living among those who could care less about how many letters come after your name.

Here are a couple of quotes that I found particularly penetrating:

The first is from In the Name of Jesus.

"A mystic is a person whose identity is deeply rooted in God's first love." To live with an awareness of the One who loves is an aspect of Contemplative Prayer.

"Through contemplative prayer we can keep ourselves from being pulled from on urgent issue to another and from becoming strangers to our own heart and God's heart. Contemplative prayer keeps us home, rooted and safe, even when we are on the road, moving from place to place, and often surrounded by sounds of violence and war. Contemplative prayer deepens in us the knowledge that we are already free, that we have already found a place to dwell, that we already belong to God, even tough everything and everyone around us keep suggesting the opposite." (42)

The rest are from Out of Solitude.

"More often than not, we not only desire to do meaningful things, but we make the results of our work the criteria of our self-esteem. And then we not only have successes, we become our successes... When we start being too impressed by the results of our work, we slowly come to the erroneous conviction that life is one large scoreboard where someone is listing the points to measure our worth. And before we are fully aware of it, we have sold our soul to the many grade-givers... Then we become what the world makes us… (22)

But underneath all our emphasis on successful action, many of us suffer from a deep-seated, low self-esteem and are walking around with the constant fear that someday someone will unmask the illusion and show that we are not as smart, as good, or as lovable as the world was made to believe… (23)

And so, when our actions have become more an expression of fear than of inner freedom, we easily become the prisoners of our self-created illusions." (24)


Hermi said...

This is meaty!

redheadrev said...

I think I started out in ministry with that fear. I read In the Name of Jesus, after Chris finished. To me what Henri Nouwen said was a relief. What he said made so much sense; I don't need to worry about how others "grade" me, but on how close I am to our wonderful God. I wrote a post saying pretty much that, too. Your post was great.