The Inner Voice of Who Knows What

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

Day 10: Gimme some Tums.

Henri, Keep Living Where God Is:

When you experience a great need for human affection, you have to ask yourself whether the circumstances surrounding you and the people you are with are truly where God wants you to be. Whatever you are doing – watching a movie, writing a book, giving a presentation, eating, or sleeping – you have to stay in God’s presence. If you feel a great loneliness and a deep longing for human contact, you have to be extremely discerning. Ask yourself whether this situation is truly God-given. Because where God wants you to be, God holds you safe and gives you peace, even when there is pain.

To live a disciplined life is to live in such a way that you want only to be where God is with you. The more deeply you live your spiritual life, the easier it will be to discern the difference between living with God and living without God, and the easier it will be to move away from the places where God is no longer with you.

The great challenge here is faithfulness, which must be lived in the choices of every moment. When your eating, drinking, working, playing, speaking, or writing is no longer for the glory of God, you should stop it immediately, because when you no longer live for the glory of God, you begin living for your own glory. Then you separate yourself from God and do yourself harm.

Your main question should always be whether something is lived with or without God. You have your own inner knowledge to answer the question. Every time you do something that comes from your needs for acceptance, affirmation, or affection, and every time you do something that makes these needs grow, you know that you are not with God. These needs will never be satisfied; they will only increase when you yield to them. But every time you do something for the glory of God, you will know God’s peace in your heart and find rest there.

Henri, Rely on Your Spiritual Guides:

It is far from easy to keep living where God is. Therefore, God gives you people who help to hold you in that place and call you back to it every time you wander off. Your spiritual guides keep reminding you of where your deepest desire is being fulfilled. You know where that is, but you distrust your own knowledge.

So rely on your spiritual guides. They may at times be stern and demanding or seem unrealistic, as though they are not considering all your needs. But it is when you lose your confidence in them that you are most vulnerable. As soon as you start saying to yourself, “My guides are getting bored with me; they talk about me without letting me in on their conversations; they treat me as a patient who should not be told everything about his condition,” you are most susceptible to outside attacks.

Let nothing come between you and your spiritual guides. When you find yourself tempted to distrust them, let them know immediately so that they can prevent your imaginings from leading you further away from them, can restore your confidence in them, and can reaffirm their commitment to you.

My spiritual guides live on Calaveras; in a little pink house with a porch swing at 480, and in a little green house with a precious dog at 1265. Four roommates, one father, one mother, and one brother – and countless others scattered throughout – though they may not know how grounded they keep me, how safe they hold me, they are the ones that remind me of God.
So, thank you. : )

Every time you do something that comes from your needs for acceptance, affirmation, or affection, and every time you do something that makes these needs grow, you know that you are not with God.

I wonder if this is really new to anybody… this knowledge of when we act out of need for acceptance, affirmation, affection (or other words that start with a and have a double consonant). I think most of us recognize this deep down, in that pit of your stomach where truth swirls around and gives you a subtle indigestion you try to ignore, a cognitive dissonance that is too difficult to deal with. I think most of us know when we are chasing after things that are not good for us, but sometimes the chase is more enjoyable than a vulnerable and angsty cry to God. Usually a lot more enjoyable. Even those things we tell ourselves are done for God’s glory can so often done be simply to ease that troubled feeling… Being so busy you can’t breathe doing all sorts of ‘churchy duties’ may look good on the resume of our self-image, but may draw us farther and farther from where God really lives.

I’ve been encouraged to give myself more grace.
I loooooove grace, redemption, restoration, reconciliation (and other words that start with re and end with tion), when I have the chance to share them with others. But for some silly reason, I have much trouble giving myself the same grace.

Dear Jessica, you are forgiven for ignoring the indigestion, and seeking to remedy it with things that are not God.
Now quit it.


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