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Eowyn's Heart

The name of this blog is based on the character Eowyn from Lord of the Rings because I strongly identify with her on many levels. The purpose of this blog is to proclaim the glory of my Lord and King through His work in conforming me into the image of His Son, Christ Jesus. In all things, I trust you will see His hand at work.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Nouwen 4-MAT

(I really did *not* like this book)

Nouwen, H. (1975). Reaching out: The three movements of the spiritual life. New York: Doubleday.

Concrete Response

In reading Nouwen's section regarding "The Avoidance of the Painful Void" (p. 26-29), I was again reminded of my own personal, consistent struggle to be O.K. with solitude and silence. At 44 years of age, I still sometimes find my singleness a source of great pain as I had imagined myself married with children many years ago. Occasionally, rather than face the pain and fear of loneliness, I overwhelm myself with projects and ministries. When there is not enough to do, I will absorb myself in a fictional book or meaningless television viewing. However, as I have matured, I have learned the value of allowing myself to "feel my own pain" (Nouwen, p. 27) and to take that pain before my Lord and sit at his feet in silence as he ministers comfort to my soul. In these times, the pain leads me into a more intimate relationship with my Savior.
More recently, I have been applying this concept in my relationship with my dad. Because he has his own deep hurts and loneliness, he often avoids them by verbal expressions of hostility. In the past, I have worked to avoid this pain by physically leaving the room and/or permitting anger to fester in my heart. Through Bible study, I have come to learn that I must be willing to embrace his pain as my own, just as I embrace the pain of my singleness, and allow it to drive me to the foot of the cross.


I approached this book with great anticipation. It wasn't long before I was sorely disappointed and realized I needed to apply an attitude of rigorous discernment in the reading as it is full of mysticism and humanistic spiritualism rather than being solidly grounded in Biblical Christian spirituality. One example of this is found on page 88 where Nouwen states, "There are just as many ways to be a Christian as there are Christians" which is followed by subjecting doctrine to human potential and noting on page 89 that there are "many roads" to truth. Additionally, on page 72 Nouwen asserts that creating a free and friendly space is "the opening of an opportunity to others to find their God and their way."
Questions in Nouwen's reasoning were present throughout the reading but were most troubling and challenging in the closing section regarding prayer. I have to wonder if Nouwen didn't confuse the act of meditation with the act of prayer. Where is verbalization of praise and supplication and gratitude? Are these not key aspects as taught to us by the Lord Himself (reference Matthew 6:8-13 and Luke 11:2-4)? Additionally, Nouwen recommends a "spiritual guide" (pg. 137-138). I was saddened to discover he was referring to a human guide as opposed to our God-given guide, the Holy Spirit. While I recognize the value of a human mentor, one of the Holy Spirit's primary roles is intimate involvement in our prayers (Romans 8:26-27) - a fact Nouwen completely missed.


Despite my overall disappointment with the book, there were some savory bits and pieces that I found useful and will incorporate into my daily life and therapeutic practice. Nouwen's reflection of the joy and privilege it is to be a member of the human race (pg. 42-44) and our responsibility as such was refreshing and inspiring. As a therapist, it is essential that we see the Imago Dei in ourselves, our peers and our clients.
As a therapist, there will be times when I need to educate my client on some life issue. During such times, it will be important for me to encourage my client to reflection that will lead to development of vision - theirs, not mine (Nouwen, pg. 90). My goal must not be to force change upon my clients but rather to offer my clients a free and safe place where change can take place (Nouwen, p. 71) where they can "sing their own songs, speak their own languages, dance their own dances" (Nouwen, p. 72)
Lastly, I appreciated the acknowledgment that we are all in process, none of us whole and perfect, and yet it is in our imperfections that we are called to reach out to others. Our own struggles "can keep us humble by allowing us to offer our service to others, without being whole ourselves" (Nouwen, p. 71). I find great value in recognizing God's strength in my weakness and my prayer now reflects a cry for greater weakness so that His strength will be ever more present in my life.


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