Henri Nouwen, a Dutch Catholic priest, well known for his writing about authentic Christian spirituality, was a brilliant man, a university professor, a prolific writer. He took the call of Christ seriously and wanted to know Him in deeper ways. Once he thought that he could best find God’s Presence in the monastic life . . . until he was there for a few days.
Nouwen tells how he searched the mailbox, waited for calls; hungering even for another monk to show him some attention. His mood darkened to depression and then anxiety. These were his thoughts, recorded in his journal. “My lifestyle became part of our contemporary desire for ‘stardom.’ I wanted to say, write, or do something ‘different’ or ‘special’ that would be noticed and talked about. … you can even preach the Gospel in such a way that people are led to believe nobody had thought of that before. In all these situations you end up with applause because you did something sensational.” The Genesee Diary
Many of us, especially in the Western culture, are trained to believe that we are exceptional. We become convinced, sometimes subtly, to of this – “I am important. I deserve good things. I am worthy of your attention.” The emphasis in on our individuality. This makes living a truly Christ-like life complicated.
Nouwen’s experience with anonymity in a community dedicated to quiet sameness in contemplation and service of Christ led him to a new understanding of Christ’s own surrender which is described in the Scripture. “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Philippians 2:5-7, NIV) This is not self-hatred. It is not a call to leave our gifts undeveloped.
When we ‘forget’ ourselves something happens that allows us to find love, what we all desire. And there is this – God reveals that if we want to be of the highest value to Him, if we would live in the serenity of the Spirit promised to us, we will have to learn to be content with being all that Christ makes us. “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3, NIV) Ponder the call of Jesus. He asks each of us to give up our life, to take up our Cross, to die to Self. Does that sound like a path of misery? Think again! His promise is true. “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39, NIV)
Does the moon pine for its own radiance? We love that light in the night sky mostly unconscious that we are seeing reflected light. That lump of rock is beautified by the glory of another heavenly body. The principle for our lives must be learned there. IF we will surrender our need for notice, when we settle our heart on reflecting His radiance, we can discover a contentment that is beyond any fulfillment to be found in promotion of Self.
How much of your time is spent on making your own life more pleasant in ways as simple as insisting that a room be kept at a temperature comfort for you? Christ offers to give us an inner life, to let us commune with Him. The paradox is that in Him we become real, content, and rich in that which cannot be taken away.
Here is a word from the Word – “Dearest friends, … put into action God’s saving work in your lives, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him. In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing, so that no one can speak a word of blame against you. You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world full of crooked and perverse people. Let your lives shine brightly before them. Hold tightly to the word of life.” (Philippians 2:12-16, NLT)
Abba, how I love myself.
So much time is spent wondering about what others think,
Trying to capture attention,
wanting so desperately to matter.
Forgive me for believing the lie that I can find
satisfaction for that love-hunger in anyone but You.
Free me to serve, to love, to be all that YOU desire.
Let me rejoice in reflecting Your radiance into the world,
content to be hidden in Christ. Amen