The Inner Voice of Who Knows What

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

Day 3: Do you love me?

Henri, Cry Inward:

A split between divinity and humanity has taken place in you. With your divinely endowed center you know God’s will, God’s way, God’s love. But your humanity is cut off from that. Your many human needs for affection, attention, and consolation are living apart from your divine sacred space. Your call is to let these two parts of yourself come together again.

You have to move gradually from crying outward – crying out for people who you think can fulfill your needs – to crying inward to the place where you can let yourself be held and carried by God, who has become incarnate in the humanity of those who love you in community. No one person can fulfill all your needs. But the community can truly hold you. The community can let you experience the fact that, beyond your anguish, there are human hands that hold you and show you God’s faithful love.

Henri, Always Come Back to the Solid Place:

You must believe in the yes that comes back when you ask, “Do you love me?” You must choose this yes even when you do not experience it.

You feel overwhelmed by distractions, fantasies, the disturbing desire to throw yourself into the world of pleasure. But you know already that you will not find there an answer to your deepest question. Nor does the answer lie in rehashing old events, or in guilt or shame. All of that makes you dissipate yourself and leave the rock on which your house is built.

You have to trust the place that is solid, the place where you can say yes to God’s love even when you do not feel it. Right now you feel nothing except emptiness and the lack of strength to choose. But keep saying, “God loves me, and God’s love is enough.” You have to choose the solid place over and over again and return to it after every failure.


The deepest question: Do you love me?

It should be enough to hear the resounding yes from the creator of the universe, the redeemer of humankind, the author of every tiny bit of life – but often it is not.
I seek another resounding yes from somebody, or somebodies, who I can touch and smell and look in the eyes.

The physicality of the answer seems to cement it.
The earthiness of the speaker leaves less room to question.

I wish I could have the privilege of Thomas, to put my finger in Jesus’ side and feel the very human, textured, scarred reassurance that this man is a real man. I wish I could have the sensation of the woman who touched his cloak, felt the fabric of her Rabbi, and was called daughter. I wish I could have the memories of Mary Magdalene and Judas, who for different reasons graced the Messiah with a kiss. I with I could have the pregnant belly of Mary.

Communication in our era holds so many levels of intimacy… Words through an e-mail, Facebook message, or journal article may be powerful, but still lifeless as they are created on a screen. A text message adds the odd comfort of knowing that the message was sent from a place close to the speaker – a purse or maybe warm pocket. Conversations on the telephone mean tone of voice, the sound of laughter, or the agony of silence. Skype calls invite body language and facial expressions into the complexity of communication.

But seeing that face, hearing that voice, and knowing that this person is physically within reach – creates an entirely different world. The ability to grasp firmly a hand from across the table, or swoop up a child in strong loving arms, or feel the sweetness of a little kiss… The message is right at your fingertips. The love is right at your fingertips.

God’s love was found incarnate in Jesus, this very tactile and physically imperfect and earthy incarnation in 1st century Palestine.
Right at our fingertips.
Dear God, let me feel, really feel, that incarnation – that physical promise and assurance of your love.


Henri’s second chapter today speaks exactly to where my heart lies in wait, pondering its next step. I hope he is speaking to you as well.


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2 thoughts on “Day 3: Do you love me?

  1. When I was reading this I kept thinking of this song:

  2. You must believe in the yes that comes back when you ask, “Do you love me?” You must choose this yes even when you do not experience it

    Oh, Henri ( in my Lisa Voice)
    How easy is it to choose the yes even when we dont experience it… not easy at all. Tangible love is so much easier to believe in. My flesh longs for the verbal and physical affirmations of another. It’s crazy because sometimes even when you do have the physical touch of another human there is still emptiness. I guess it is something I will never understand, but I know my spirit longs for something deeper

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