Thursday, June 14, 2007

Knowing God. Knowing Self.

God has met me this week through the words of Henri Nouwen. Monday morning as I sat shocked and reeling from my experience at church on Sunday, questioning my faith and hearing voices of my past and present telling me I had to know God their way to be “saved”, I opened Nouwen’s The Only Necessary Thing and these words greeted me:

"Once I “know” God, that is once I experience God’s love as the love in which all my human experiences are anchored, I can only desire one thing: to be in that love.”

Those words were like a warm hug enwrapping my small and oh so human body. Because, you see, I know that I have experienced the love to which Nouwen refers and I experienced it yet again in that very moment as tears of joy and surrender trailed down my face. There was nowhere else I desired to be. The voices of others faded away and only the voice of God commingled with mine existed.

The other “voices” that continue to battle for my attention are the ones that say “Self-knowledge is dangerous. It is selfish to consider yourself over others. You must only listen to the word of God (i.e. Scripture) for clear understanding.” With those voices I translate, “Don’t look inside yourself. You cannot be trusted. Only trust others who know more than you (i.e. pastors and scholars).” The battle is that I really don’t believe the translation and find myself caught between knowing that I can trust myself and realizing that the battle still rages on.

And so I share Nouwen’s words that greeted me today (I realize I have just spoken of being wary of only trusting “wiser” others, however, the difference for me lies in the words having resonance rather than dissonance in my soul.) His words definitely fall into the resonance category for me. See Reeling? Healing? Kneeling? for an example of dissonance ☺.

"The mystery of the spiritual life is that Jesus desires to meet us in the seclusion of our own heart, to make his love known to us there, to free us from our fears, and to make our own deepest self known to us. In the privacy of our heart, therefore, we can learn not only to know Jesus, but through Jesus to know ourselves as well…Each time you let the love of God penetrate deeper into you heart, you lose a bit of your anxiety; and every time you shed a bit of your anxiety, you learn to know yourself better and long all the more to be known by your loving God.

Thus the more you learn to love God, the more you learn to know and to cherish yourself. Self-knowledge and self-love are the fruit of knowing and loving God. You can see better now what is intended by the great commandment to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself.” Laying our hearts totally open to God leads to a love of ourselves that enables us to give whole-hearted love to our fellow human beings. In the seclusion of our hearts we learn to know the hidden presence of God; and with that spiritual knowledge we can lead a loving life.”

Again, I experienced the warm knowing that God was speaking directly to my heart--A heart desiring self-knowledge not because it is “selfish” but because it desires “to know the hidden presence of God…and lead a loving life.”

Amen.

How and where do you meet God? What are the battles that rage inside your head?

11 comments:

Tess said...

Since you posted The Reflecting Pond on Wednesday, I've been struggling to remember which words it reminded me of. Now with this thoughtful and lovely writing today, I remembered.

It is by the Indian mystic Kabir:

Inside this clay jug there are canyons and pine mountains,
and the maker of canyons and pine mountains!
All seven oceans are inside, and hundreds of millions of stars.
The acid that tests gold is there, and the one who judges jewels.
And the music from the strings that no one touches,
and the source of all water.


It's all about what Nouwen (and you) say: we meet God within our own hearts.

And the battle for me is that sometimes I harden my heart and I don't allow it. And therein lies the lack of love of self.

lucy said...

tess--thank you for the kabir words. they are definitely words that resonate.

and yes, keeping our hearts from hardening, that is the battle!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful....I'm thinking...and will get back to you. Pamela

lucy said...

pamela--i love knowing that you check in and am always interested in what you are thinking.

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lucy said...

thanks, anon. it would be great to know who you are so i can check out your blog :-)

maureen said...

i am sitting here at the computer struggling to write but interrupted by my own lucy my crazy sweet puppy she reminds me to take a minute to sit and hold her and smell her puppy smell being at peace with the world not anxious to do the next thing i love henri the hidden presence of God... such a powerful thought... i was just musing over an incident from a recent retreat i led i had brought a cd of cat stevens that lovely hymn 'morning has broken' as my friend jimmy played it one of the adult leaders jumped up and said we can't play that he's awful and muslim! of course this song was old and from a time prior to his conversion not that that matters in any way i said nothing to my great chagrin why was i thinking of that this am? i believe it's because i was thinking of how we come to know GOd and must it be from the "pre-approved " sources or does God sneak into our lives with huge messages stuck in the most improbable of places waiting for us... your thoughts and those henri offered somehow linked up with my musing God asks us to be free of fear to shed our anxiety and to listen for when the spirit of god will speak to us no matter the form i celebrate that
i pray for an opportunity to connect with that young woman again and am thankful for your words

Sunrise Sister said...

I had such a crazy week but I think I sent Lucy a note re her gift of the The Reflecting Pond book from her former brother-in-law; but if not, how strange that life keeps coming around with the same characters bouncing in and out. I hope The Reflecting Pond was a reminder of the good, yet troubled person, who gave it to you so many years ago for who knows what reason.....SS

lucy said...

maureen--thank you for those beautiful words. so funny that you would mention cat stevens today as i had a "conversation" with another blogging friend re: how his music touched us in our youth. "morning has broken" is a beautiful 'hymn' and, yes, i firmly believe that God meets us often (most?) outside of those "pre-approved" spaces.
i, too, hope you have opportunity to connect with that young woman again.

SS--as a child/young person i was able to experience much more of the 'good' than the 'troubled' in PB. he is yet another example of how God meets us in places we least expect and the everlasting effects of those meetings.

chimayo bound said...

isn't this interesting . . .
in a faith funk these last many weeks I, too, have turned to Henri Nouwen.

Introduced to him twelve years ago by my dear friend Marilyn, I've feasted on every word he's ever written.
This month, I've returned to 'The Inner Voice of Love,' and would recommend it to anyone looking to make sense of times of personal struggle.

Among my other favorites of Henri Nouwen's are 'The Return of the Prodigal Son,' and 'Life of the Beloved.'

lucy said...

cb--nouwen rocks! two of the three you have mentioned are my favorites. i will add 'life of the beloved' to my reading list. (i have particularly enjoyed his chapter on 'the beloved' in the compilation i have been reading.

his words are a "feast!"