So last week we looked at taking some of the pressure off this process of transformation (becoming more like Jesus!!). We looked rather at a slow gradual process forward (forward being key!! or as Paul reminds us this ever increasing glory). But we also admitted in the process we have areas of resistance. I hope to help us start drilling down a little bit more into the resistance to better move forward and feel more and more the freedom He offers in our lives as we buy into the process of a long obedience in the same direction!!
I have admitted before the mentoring I receive from some of those classic writers whose books truly help us wrestle well with this life in Christ. Another one of those writers is Henri Nouwen, a priest and author who has written 39 books on spirituality and is internationally read and known. In a book that is part of a trilogy written about Nouwen, by a different author, titled Henri Nouwen and Spiritual Polarities: A Life of Tension we are given a great place to start our search for where our resistance may be. In fact in the title alone we can already see this alluded to when we note in the subtitle the word tension. In fact in the introduction portion of this book we hear this view of Nouwen’s of our process…
“We are perfected in the process as we attend openly and with integrity to our imperfect but redeemable condition.”
The two areas that are explored in this book are that of our inward and outward process. In one particular chapter the author gives to us these two areas and a better understanding of what we need to consider here… which is that of our lives of solitude and our life of community. I am guessing even as you just read them you might have an initial thought of resistance in one of both of those areas in our life in Christ.
Let me offer and example… I remember a number of years ago a fellow Christ follower telling me about their time in the word and how journaling was big part of how through their time they connected more fully with the word and ultimately with God. Well at that point in my faith walk I was very resistant to that thought and process of working that into my life. However, after working through the Bible a few times I wanted a fresh approach and there it was… what about journaling (really??!!). Not only was I extremely blessed by writing down thoughts from what I read… but gained an expectation of hearing Him speaking to me… which eventually then turned into writing down prayers that came out of the passage that was before me. I met the resistance straight on and the win was finding a way to grow closer to Him!!
In this chapter on this tension between solitude and community… Nouwen reminds us how both work into our process and really as we grow in both we find out more and more how much we cannot have one without the other.
“Communion with God is where spiritual community begins. Community springs forth from solitude, and without a community, communion with God is impossible.” Nouwen from his book Spiritual Direction (pp. 112, 115)
Let’s just put it on the table… in our microwave society, hustle and bustle lives, we also live more and more lonely lives… we are too often not regarding this tension and how it plays into our lives as followers of Christ. Followers made in His image, who have the privilege to become more and more like Him!!
Again, for Henri Nouwen, it is never a question of either/or, for it necessitates a balanced cultivation of both. “We all have to find our way home to God in solitude and in community with others.” from Spiritual Direction (p. 115)