My friend and counselor, Tim Stauffer, referenced this book in our last session. I’m glad he brought it up! I’m not much of a reader (maybe have read 1 book every year or other year, LOL), but I have included reading a book each month into some planning I’ve done recently. I decided to tackle this one first.
I’ve listed my five favorite pieces of the book at the bottom of this post, and here is a link to my entire notes (thanks to Evernote).
The past few years, following my heart attack, have been filled with lots of fear, uncertainty, shame, and I’d have to admit a good amount of misunderstanding on my part. This book really opened my eyes to the fact that we can never “arrive” in God’s eyes on our own. Our spirituality is always growing, and we sometimes want to mature faster than we want to become child-like in our faith.
Our culture thrives on progress and impressing others with our confidence and determination. I’ve believed that about my faith for far too long. Being afraid of dying because of falling short with my faith or not loving those closest to me as well as they deserve. God’s love continues to wait for me to let all of that go. Letting so much go that you even befriend your own mortality and death.
While reading this book my next door neighbor, a 7-month old, had open heart surgery. I won’t go into details, but he (and his family) got through the surgery and we got to enjoy their smiles and laughter days after it. Sure, my heart attack was very serious (100% blockage in a main artery), but to see this young boy embrace life after going through what he has teaches me quite a bit. I go through life depending on myself and others so much, without acknowledging just how much I really am in the hands of God every moment.
I really do suggest that you read the book, or at least scroll through these few short parts of it below. My faith always needs to grow, but God’s love doesn’t. I’m so thankful that the Holy Spirit has convinced me that I already belong. It’s my prayer that we start looking at our own faith as love and not as a list. Because He loved us ALL first, and hasn’t stopped doing so.
WHAT SPOKE TO ME THE MOST:
I have never met anyone seriously interested in the spiritual life who did not have a growing desire for silence.
Prayer is being unbusy with God instead of being busy with other things. Prayer is primarily to do nothing useful or productive in the presence of God.
Suddenly, I knew, “I am part of humanity!” I am not the great exception. I suffer as other people suffer. I cry like other people cry, and I can dance as other people dance. Suddenly I realized that, yes, I want to live this truth together, I want to live it in community. Community and solidarity are at the heart of the movement from sorry to joy.
On Befriending Death:
I deeply believe that when we become lovers of life and death, when we embrace our enemy, when we befriend our mortality, we can become better warriors and stronger resisters through the power of love. I say this with some intimate knowledge of the truth.
On Spiritual Development:
By the time he arrived at Notre Dame as a professor of pastoral psychology, he (Nouwen) had turned the ladder of ascent on its side and taught spiritual formation as a series of horizontal movements of the heart, back and forth, that require daily devotion and discipline, with the goal of human wholeness rather than divine perfection.
I’m not colorblind when it comes to race, so why say “I’m not white”? I read Marla’s post from yesterday, and it reminded me of a few thoughts that have been running through my mind the past few months.
Race has changed in this country, and just because there are no extremely large protests or as many riots doesn’t mean that the tension is gone. If your skin in darker than mine is, you’ve most likely had to deal with prejudice, being stereotyped or labeled, and felt oppressed beneath the weight of pride pushed on you from those with lighter skin. I’ve seen this type of judgment come from people within my family and Marla’s family, so it’s not something I can say I have no connection to.
People whose skin is very close to the shade of mine, and closer than I would have hoped, take part in making racial division last.
Proud of “being white”, some proud of “being black” – when REALLY…….they don’t even know what they mean. After spending over two years (from day one) being a part of an intentionally multi-ethnic church family, I can honestly say I am starting to understand some of what the problem is. Before I was this close of friends to people with different shades of skin I couldn’t see or hear what they felt. Or even have the privilege of sitting down with them and listening without an agenda.
Stereotyping others or even placing yourself into a group deserves quite a bit of the blame. When you’re filling out a profile about yourself and check the “caucasian” box, is that what you really are? Does the pigment of your skin perfectly match all of the others that mark that box? I’ve been to Southeast Asia, holding young girls who admire my skin, in my arms. Girls who tell my wife they wish they had her skin. I’ve spent time in the country, following trucks with large confederate flag stickers across their back window – as if previous wars or your geographic location is something to be proud about.
Division starts when you think you know who you are. My friend Delaine made this clear to me, in a small diverse group discussion we had recently over the Trayvon Martin / George Zimmerman case. Her request was that her friends with lighter skin not come into these discussions thinking they know everything, or just taking our judicial system and letting the “facts” only matter. Her skin might be darker than mine, but it didn’t seem simple for her to group herself with everyone else in the room whose skin was. Maybe because some people look at this melting pot of a country and world that we live in and it’s simpler for them to divide it into small groups. People of similar skin pigmentation don’t always originate from the same place or fit as easily into a group as you might think! I know quite a few people who look like me that I sure wouldn’t appreciate being grouped with for certain things.
My view on the case is not to best understand ALL of the facts. After lots of time, it seems even the jury had trouble with that. One thing cannot be forgotten, now that the verdict has been given. Trayvon Martin is dead, and George Zimmerman is alive. One of them killed the other. No matter how you look at that, murder took place.
If you haven’t opened your eyes yet, the list of different “colors” keeps multiplying on those profile forms you’re filling out. When God created Adam – and then Eve, it was probably much simpler for them to find common ground. As the colors continue to mix (which is a great thing), prejudice, labeling, and stereotyping aren’t going away. The first step to getting rid of those evils is to take a new step in understand where you really stand in this huge sea of diversity. Can you accept people who aren’t just like you? Do you try to become someone you are not, or maybe you don’t even know who you want to be?
Some make leaps that leave you confused. I’m to blame when it comes to this. I’ve tried to label some young lighter-skinned people as “wanna-be’s” (trying to mimic the life of thugs whose skin is darker), or seeing darker-skinned people who rise into the upper class and labeling them as Carlton from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. As if just because their skin is a certain shade means they should fit in a box. That’s not how God would see it. He would see them individually, without labeled walls surrounding them (music, lifestyle, finances, sports, education, etc.).
The truth is, you’re no better or worse than every other person God has created, and no matter what you do or what groups of people you join hands with, God sees you as a single individual whose purpose is to love your neighbor (AND your enemies – who hopefully are only enemies because of a choice they’ve made). One of the two greatest commandments.
I guess I don’t agree that “birds of a feather should flock together“. The feathers continue to change, and we all don’t care enough about the other birds.
I’ll keep this extremely SHORT, and I would like your response to initially be SHORT as well. I would extremely appreciate you clicking here (in a second) and sending me a message using the contact form. Let me know about the one most painful (emotional/mental/spiritual) thing you’ve had to go through or experience in your life. We will dig deeper soon, but just touch the surface for now. I will keep this confidential – between you and I only. Thanks SO much!