The Inner Voice of Who Knows What

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

Day 6: So Gnosty.

Henri, Trust in the Place of Unity:

You are called to live out of a new place, beyond your emotions, passions, and feelings. As long as you live amid your emotions, passions, and feelings, you will continue to experience loneliness, jealousy, anger, resentment, and even rage, because those are the most obvious responses to rejection and abandonment.

You have to trust that there is another place, to which your spiritual guides want to lead you and where you can be safe. Maybe it is wrong to think about this new place as beyond emotions, passions, and feelings. Beyond could suggest that these human sentiments are absent there. Instead, try thinking about this place as the core of your being – your heart, where are human sentiments are held together in truth. From this place you can feel, think, and act truthfully.

It is quite understandable that you are afraid of this place. You have so little knowledge of it. You have caught glimpses of it, you have even been there at times, but for most of your life you have dwelt among your emotions, passions, and feelings and searched in them for inner peace and joy.

Also, you have not fully acknowledged this new place as the place where God dwells and holds you. You fear that this truthful place is in fact a bottomless pit where you will lose all you have and are. Do not be afraid. Trust that the God of life wants to embrace you and give you true safety.

You might consider this the place of unification, where you can become one. Right now you experience an inner duality; your emotions, passions, and feelings seem separate from your heart. The needs of your body seem separate from your deeper self. Your thoughts and dreams seem separate from your spiritual longing.

You are called to unity. That is the good news of the Incarnation. The Word becomes flesh, and thus a new place is made where all of you and all of God can dwell. When you have found that unity, you will be truly free.


I joke with friends (usually just a few who get my humor and actually still consider me funny) that to separate out body and soul, flesh and spirit, is so gross and Gnosty.
Like nasty, but gnostic.
Because it’s gross to separate them.
(Get it?)

But we do it all the time.
We assume our spirit has power to do just about anything it sets its mind to, but that our flesh gets in the way. Yes, oftentimes this makes sense – but just as often, doesn’t this kind of thinking get us into trouble as it leads us down a slope toward glorifying our spirit and demonizing our flesh? Holding up our soul as saintly and our body as sinful?

Good and bad are present in both…
If my soul was the white-robed, harp-playing persona I sometimes assume she is, I would have no problem reaching out to God with the touch of my gentle little manicured hand, as butterflies and wispy rainbows radiate from the point of contact.

If my body was the store-bought-red-devil-skimpy-Halloween-costume-with-a-plastic-tail that I assume she is, I would have no cause to rejoice in the many beautiful things my body can do – like bicycle and dance and make music and do hard work and hug children and be home to tattoos that remind me of who I am.

This inner duality has got to go. Death Cab for Cutie says it well: I want to live where soul meets body.
The real self, real heart, is not trapped inside a false ribcage of extra packaging – this imperfect flesh is the vessel that God chooses to house our whole being. My soul is not stranded in some skin and bones (though the imagery is nice, thank you Bono), but radiating through my hands and feet and speech and the light in my eyes.

Henri’s place of unity is certainly intimidating. This place where both entities meet sounds messy.
What secrets long-buried will be hidden there? What cobwebby skeletons will come out of the closet?
How will redemption show up in the darkest of corners? How will grace peek its head out from underneath the rubble?

The Word becomes flesh, and thus a new place is made where all of you and all of God can dwell.

The gospel good news is that one man of Nazareth has already been full like this, with all of him and all of God dwelling at once.
Jesus, teach us how to make room for both.


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One thought on “Day 6: So Gnosty.

  1. WOW… this is so challenging, yet so liberating at the same time… write on my love write on.

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