Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit

Spiritual Formation by Henri NouwenMy 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:

On Silence:
I have never met anyone seriously interested in the spiritual life who did not have a growing desire for silence.

On Prayer:
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.

On Pain:
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.

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