The Inner Voice of Who Knows What

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

Day 12: Unconditionality.

Henri, Open Yourself to the First Love:

You have been speaking a lot about dying to old attachments in order to enter the new place, where God is waiting for you. But it is possible to end up with too many noes – no to your former way of thinking and feeling, no to things you did in the past, and most of all, no to human relationships that were once precious and life-giving. You are setting up a spiritual battle full of noes, and you work yourself to despair when you realize how hard it seems, if not impossible, to cut yourself off from the past.

The love that came to you in particular, concrete human friendships and that awakened your dormant desire to be completely and unconditionally loved was real and authentic. It does not have to be denied as dangerous and idolatrous. A love that comes to you through human beings is true, God-given love and needs to be celebrated as such. When human friendships prove to be unlivable because you demand that your friends love you in ways that are beyond human capacity, you do not have to deny the reality of the love you received. When you try to die to that love in order to find God’s love, you are doing something God does not want. The task is not to die to life-giving relationships but to realize that the love you received in them is part of a greater love.

God has given you a beautiful self. There God dwells and loves you with the first love, which precedes all human love. You carry your own beautiful, deeply loved self in your heart. You can and must hold on to the truth of the love you were given and recognize that same love in others who see your goodness and love you.

So stop trying to die to the particular real love you have received. Be grateful for it and see it as what enabled you to open yourself to God’s first love.

me:

Dear friends and family and community and boys who have loved me imperfectly,
Thank you.

You have shown me glimpses of God’s love, and you have in these glimpses enlightened me to my goodness – and my beautiful, deeply loved self in my heart. Sometimes you say nice things to my heart and take care of it for a while, then accidentally drop it in the dirt. But I know I’ve done the same to your hearts.

The love that came to you in particular, concrete human friendships and that awakened your dormant desire to be completely and unconditionally loved was real and authentic.

I’m so sorry for the times I’ve cut you out of my life – hoping only for a pure, unadultered outpouring of God’s overwhelming love from the vanilla sky clouds. I’m so sorry for when I’ve forgotten that your love is part of God’s love. And I’m so sorry for the times I’ve expected you to be everything to me, asking unconditionality from a limited human heart.

God’s love, you are showing yourself in funny ways these days:

Coffeeshop employees who surprise me with the occasional drink on the house.
A very sweet old black man on Belmont as I bicycle past: “Can I ride witchoo, sunshiiiine?”
7th graders telling me I’m their favorite substitute, and all their others substitutes are “whack.”
New friends who listen well, let me get preachy when I talk about justice/kingdom/empire, and encourage me to keep pursuing the passions of my heart.
Little dogs named Sammy or Olive or Cash who, with jumps and leaps and licks and tug-of-wars,  are able to perfectly channel the unconditional nature of this love.

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