The Inner Voice of Who Knows What

the pilgrimage: Henri Nouwen and my own topsy-turvy little heart

Day 2: Love that community!

Henri, Stop Being a Pleaser:

You have to let your father and father figures go. You must stop seeing yourself through their eyes and trying to make them proud of you.

For as long as you can remember, you have been a pleaser, depending on others to give you identity. You need not look at that only in a negative way. You wanted to give your heart to others, and you did so quickly and easily. But now you are being asked to let go of all these self-made props and trust that God is enough for you. You must stop being a pleaser and reclaim your identity as a free self.

Henri, Trust the Inner Voice:

Do you really want to be converted? Are you willing to be transformed? Or do you keep clutching your old ways of life with one hand while with the other you beg people to help you change?

Conversion is certainly not something you can bring about yourself. It is not a question of will-power. You have to trust the inner voice that shows the way. You know that inner voice. You turn to it often. But after you have heard with clarity what you are asked to do, you start raising questions, fabricating objections, and seeking everyone else’s opinion. Thus, you become entangled in countless and often contradictory thoughts, feelings, and ideas and lose touch with the God in you. And you end up dependent on all the people you have gathered around you.

Only by attending constantly to the inner voice can you be converted to a new life of freedom and joy.


Writing these “spiritual imperatives” to himself in a specific context, it’s more than clear that Henri Nouwen struggles to let go of pleasing his father, and father figures…
Thank goodness I have a father who told me the other day, (over a delicious breakfast of avocado/bacon/tomato omelet and crispy golden hash browns) that there is very little I can do that would make him less proud of me. A bit of a sock to the stomach – in a good way – to know that this guy loves me so much, that he doesn’t even expect me to please him. Wow.

The tension here with pleasing – and remember, I like to be liked – is that i loooooove community. Community has become the buzz word of my life the last few years, but it resonates deep and long as one of the few unshakable priorities in my life seeking God’s kingdom. Community means that I take others seriously – what they bring to me, what I bring to them, the accountability we share, and the identities that we shape together.
I am thankful that I can lean on my community – mostly a ragtag bunch of weird young Christians making dinner together, having dance parties, sharing secrets whether we’d like to or not, motivating one another to be excited about life – to shape my identity. And I am thankful that they lean on me to do the same.

This “free self” has come through in some pretty powerful glimpses, defying expectations I assume my community places on me. Or even better, defying the insecurities that keep me from truly being myself. The free unbridled self is the self who chose to stay in Fresno for college when it was popular to go to a UC school, who took a semester off in the middle of university to live with hippies and travel and be “unproductive”, who sings in the shower even when somebody might be home to hear it, who continues to cut her own bangs despite a 50% percent success rate. Yeah, maybe less than 50.

This free self is okay with who I am, and jubilant about who I am – whether or not I believe others in my community are.

Henri asks:
Do you really want to be converted? Oh, you’re asking me? Meh.
Are you willing to be transformed? Hmmmmm, probably-ish.
Or do you keep clutching your old ways of life with one hand while with the other you beg people to help you change? Yeah, pretty much.

Really Henri, I’m not sure you understand – life is much easier when I don’t have to commit to that transformation.

Even though I cry out to YHWH that the Egyptians are oppressing my people, and that we desperately seek our Promised Land – there’s just something about that good old familiar rhythm of slavery that is hard to get over. At least you know what to expect every day. Overwhelming humiliation and systemic injustice aren’t too bad when you get used to them. But all this junk of discipleship and obedience and having to do the right thing with manna – GEEEEEZ life gets more complicated!

Life lived in freedom is still to be lived in obedience – but shoot.
Sometimes it feels easier to curl up, grab a blanket, and remain buried in the discomfort – the comfort of familiarity.
I’m still deciding if I really want to be converted.
It seems like a worthwhile question to ask yourself as well.
(My answer surprised me.)


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One thought on “Day 2: Love that community!

  1. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked. “My rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!” Mark 11:51

    I often feel like Jesus whispers this question to me. Often what I claim to want and what I really want are two different things.

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