For several months now, I have felt the need to be more grounded. I have felt scattered, frayed at the tips of my being. So, the other day I picked up a book at the library by the late Dutch Christian psychologist Henri Nouwen. Even before I opened the cover of this quiet book, I knew what needed to be done. I always know. And before you read the following words, you know. Why is it often so difficult to do those simple things – prioritize a morning quiet time, carve out a time for intentional exercise, retreat for a reflective moment in the afternoon. I do none of them consistently. It seems nearly impossible. Is it any wonder I am not focused?
Fatigue, busyness, and preoccupation often serve as arguments for not praying. Yet without this one hour a day for God, my life loses its coherence, and I start experiencing my days as a series of random incidents and accidents rather than divine appointments and encounters.
from Discernment by Henri Nouwen, pp. 113-114
Yes! Divine appointments and encounters. How much more pressing do the trivialities of my day seem when recognizing they are really moments designed by God? How much better prepared do I wish to be when I am able to slow down and see that the monotony (or stress) of the day is actually opportunity after opportunity to show Christ’s love?
Who knows but that placing my phone back in my purse is all my son needed to open up and talk? If I have not been grounded in my day, focused on Him in my spirit, I may not have sensed the need to speak to the woman in the grocery store line. I may not have been able to discern the gentle stirring within me- the conversation with my boys in the car as we wait in heavy traffic, a “coincidental” meeting of someone in need, an opportunity to pray with someone or for someone… These are not “random incidents and accidents.” How do I know?
God cannot be caught once and for all or contained for all time in a system of titles, names, nature, and events. But God lets himself be suspected! Therefore, when we pray to God or search for God in silence, we learn to recognize him in the many little ideas, meetings, happenings, signs, and wonders along the way.
Only through daily practice, confirms Nouwen, can we begin to hear and discern the voice of God within us. Christ says this too. Not only in his parables on prayer, but also through the parable of his life. He leads our days.
2 thoughts on “Excerpts from Nouwen”
April, your words soothe and as slow my mind down like metronome. I enjoy reading your blog. It feels authentic.
Thanks always for the encouragement, Ilya.