Thursday, June 25, 2009

Clinging To Faith

"Do not let your hearts be troubled,” Jesus said. “You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.”
Thomas said to him, "Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:1-6

Some of the most profound ideas regarding spirituality and humanness I have ever read came from Henri J. M. Nouwen. His teachings, which stem from his intensely personal faith, begin with our Lord as "The Beloved", the one who is constantly, relentlessly calling us to Him. Nouwen taught that faith doesn't end with the individual's personal relationship with Christ. A real living faith is expressed outwardly in the life of a living community, the sharing of life's journey to the heart of their God; and in the manifestation of that community in outward expressions of love in ministry, either public or private. He taught that it's not in our strengths, but in our weaknesses that we can truly discover our unity, and that through loving of one another in these weaknesses we are able to know God.
A short book of “spiritual imperatives” to himself titled The Inner Voice Of Love: A Journey Through Anguish To Freedom (Doubleday, 1996), written during a six-month period of intense spiritual darkness, was never intended for publication. In this work, Nouwen explores his own weaknesses, the recesses of his fears, his struggles with faith, and presents them as "a source of consolation to see that light and darkness, hope and despair, love and fear are never very far from each other, and that spiritual freedom often requires a fierce spiritual battle." (from the Introduction, xviii) Sometimes the battle isn't with a demon, but with ourself.
The following excerpt is called Cling To The Promise:

Do not tell everyone your story. You will only end up feeling more rejected. People cannot give you what you long for in your heart. The more you expect from people’s response to your experience of abandonment, the more you will feel exposed to ridicule.

You have to close yourself to the outside world so you can enter your own heart and the heart of God through your pain. God will send to you the people with whom you can share your anguish, who can lead you closer to the true source of love.

God is faithful to God’s promises. Before you die, you will find the acceptance and the love you crave. It will not come in the way you expect. It will not follow your needs and wishes. But it will fill your heart and satisfy your deepest desire. There is nothing to hold on to but this promise. Everything else has been taken away from you. Cling to that naked promise in faith. Your faith will heal you.

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