The Inner Voice of Who Knows What

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

Day 9: Plaque.

Henri, Enter the New Country:

You have an idea of what the new country looks like. Still, you are very much at home, although not truly at peace, in the old country. You know the ways of the old country, its joys and pains, its happy and sad moments. You have spent most of your days there. Even though you know that you have not found there what your heart most desires, you remain quite attached to it. It has become part of your very bones.

Now you have come to realize that you must leave it and enter the new country, where your Beloved dwells. You know that what helped and guided you in the old country no longer works, but what else do you have to go by? You are being asked to trust that you will find what you need in the new country. That requires the death of what has become so precious to you: influence, success, yes, even affection and praise.

Trust is so hard, since you have nothing to fall back on. Still, trust is what is essential. The new country is where you are called to go, and the only way to go there is naked and vulnerable.

It seems that you keep crossing and recrossing the border. For a while you experience a real joy in the new country. But then you feel afraid and start longing again for all your left behind, so you go back to the old country. To your dismay, you discover that the old country has lost its charm. Risk a few more steps into the new country, trusting that each time you enter it, you will feel more comfortable and be able to stay longer.

 

me:

Every Thursday I bike to class at the seminary. Global Christian Theologies, and I looooove it. Every Thursday at 9:45 we break in the middle of class, and I make my way to my old place of employment for free coffee – FPU Student Life. On the wall beside the coffee table is a plaque with a list of names, a new name every year and many blanks waiting to be filled. Outstanding Student Leaders, or some similar title letting us know that these names are a big deal. These names were awarded this title for their acts of service, academic achievement, leadership skills, and contribution to the FPU community, in special ways.

You know that what helped and guided you in the old country no longer works, but what else do you have to go by? You are being asked to trust that you will find what you need in the new country. That requires the death of what has become so precious to you: influence, success, yes, even affection and praise.

“Jessica Mast” is one name on the plaque, an award given in 2008.

That awards ceremony was one of my proudest moments, being recognized for what I had to offer my community.

The problem is, that moment was the peak. After achieving this high point, the journey forward was a downhill one…
Into a life of less rushing around and fulfilling multiple roles, of less striving to please others, of less external-turned-internal expectation pressing upon my heart.
Into a life of more simplicity, of rich and fruitful relationships, of pain and heartache and experiencing ‘real life’ in a way I simply had not before.

You are being asked to trust that you will find what you need in the new country. That requires the death of what has become so precious to you: influence, success, yes, even affection and praise. 

My name on the plaque is old country. Building my identity on a plaque is old country.
The new country is a more frightening place to be.

That requires the death of what has become so precious to you: influence, success, yes, even affection and praise. 

My name on the plaque is old country, my identity held hostage by a geography in which I no longer live.
The new country may not recognize me, but it will be good for me.
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