“Your true identity is as a child of God. This is the identity you have to accept. Once you have claimed it and settled in it, you can live in a world that gives you much joy as well as pain. You can receive the praise as well as the blame that comes to you as an opportunity for strengthening your basic identity, because the identity that makes you free is anchored beyond all human praise and blame. You belong to God, and it is as a child of God that you are sent into the world.
You need spiritual guidance; you need people who can keep you anchored in your true identity. The temptation to disconnect from that deep place in you where God dwells and to let yourself be drowned in the praise or blame of the world always remains.
Since that deep place in you where your identity as a child of God is rooted has been unknown to you for a long time, those who were able to touch you there had a sudden and often overwhelming power over you. They became part of your identity. You could no longer live without them. But they could not fulfil that divine role, so they left you, and you felt abandoned. But it is precisely that experience of abandonment that called you back to your true identity as a child of God.
Only God can fully dwell in that deepest place in you and give you a sense of safety. But the danger remains that you will let other people run away with your sacred centre, thus throwing you into anguish.
It might take a great deal of time and discipline to reconnect fully your deep, hidden self and your public self, which is known, loved, and accepted but also criticised by the world. Gradually, though, you will begin feeling more connected and become more fully who you truly are — a child of God. There lies your real freedom.”
— Henri J. M. Nouwen, “Accept Your Identity as a Child of God,” The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish To Freedom (via godthings)
“I was just talking to someone the other day who misses church. But he can’t bring himself to go because he said he has to compromise too much, he has to concede too much, he has to effectively shut off the largest part of who he is. And he’s not willing to make that deal.”
— David Hayward, keep your big mouth shut, nakedpastor | Patheos
“There is within you a lamb and a lion. Spiritual maturity is the ability to let lamb and lion lie down together. Your lion is your adult, aggressive self. It is your initiative-taking and decision-making self. But there is also your fearful, vulnerable lamb, the part of you that needs affection, support, affirmation, and nurturing.
When you heed only your lion, you will find yourself overextended and exhausted. When you take notice only of your lamb, you will easily become a victim of your need for other people’s attention. The art of spiritual living is to fully claim both your lion and your lamb. Then you can act assertively without denying your own needs. And you can ask for affection and care without betraying your talent to offer leadership.
Developing your identity as a child of God in no way means giving up your responsibilities. Likewise, claiming your adult self in no way means that you cannot become increasingly a child of God. In fact, the opposite is true. The more you can feel safe as a child of God, the freer you will be to claim your mission in the world as a responsible human being. And the more you claim that you have a unique task to fulfil for God, the more open you will be to letting your deepest need be met.
The kingdom of peace that Jesus came to establish begins when your lion and your lamb can freely and fearlessly lie down together.”
— Henri J. M. Nouwen, “Let Your Lion Lie Down with Your Lamb,” The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish To Freedom (via godthings)
“How was Joseph able to forgive [his brothers]? The Bible tells us. He says to his brothers: ‘Do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you … So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.’ This is one of the most transformative passages in the Bible. It explains how Joseph was able to free himself from the hurt and humiliation he surely felt at being betrayed by his own family. Nowadays this is called cognitive behavioural therapy. Joseph changed the way he felt by changing the way he thought.
Evidently he had asked himself, ‘Why has God put me through this suffering?’ But there are two ways of asking it, and it makes all the difference which way we do. One is oriented to the past: ‘What did I do to deserve this? For what sin am I being punished?’ The other is directed to the future: ‘What is it that God wants me to do, that I can only do here, now and in these circumstances?’”
— Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks, Answering God’s Call, HuffPost Religion | The Huffington Post
“As a child of God, you need to be prudent. You cannot simply walk around in this world as if nothing and no one can harm you. You remain extremely vulnerable. The same passions that make you love God may be used by the powers of evil.”
— Henri J. M. Nouwen, “Protect Your Innocence,” The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish To Freedom
“Being a child of God does not make you free from temptations. You might have moments when you feel so blessed, so in God, so loved that you forget you are still living in a world of powers and principalities. But your innocence as a child of God needs to be protected. Otherwise, you will easily be pulled out of your true self and experience the devastating force of the darkness surrounding you.
This being pulled out may come as a great surprise. Before you are even fully aware of it or have had a chance to consent to it, you may find yourself overwhelmed by lust, anger, resentment, or greed. A picture, a person, or a gesture may trigger these strong, destructive emotions and seduce your innocent self.
As a child of God, you need to be prudent. You cannot simply walk around in this world as if nothing and no one can harm you. You remain extremely vulnerable. The same passions that make you love God may be used by the powers of evil.
The children of God need to support, protect, and hold one another close to God’s heart. You belong to a minority in a large, hostile world. As you become more aware of your true identity as a child of God, you will also see more clearly the many forces that try to convince you that all things spiritual are false substitutes for the real things of life.
When you are temporarily pulled out of your true self, you can have the sudden feeling that God is just a word, prayer is fantasy, sanctity is a dream, and the eternal life is an escape from true living. Jesus was tempted in this way, and so are we.
Do not trust your thoughts and feelings when you are pulled out of yourself. Return quickly to your true place, and pay no attention to what tricked you. Gradually you will come to be more prepared for these temptations, and they will have less and less power over you. Protect your innocence by holding on to the truth: you are a child of God and deeply loved.”
— Henri J. M. Nouwen, “Protect Your Innocence,” The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish To Freedom (via godthings)
“You are so young, you have not even begun, and I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything that is unsolved in your heart and to try to cherish the questions themselves, like closed rooms and like books written in a very strange tongue. Do not search now for the answers which cannot be given you because you could not live them. It is a matter of living everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, one distant day live right into the answer.”
— Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet (translated by Reginald Snell)
“I came near alarming myself with the thought of the loneliness stretching ahead of me, and the new bitterness of it, and how I hated the secretiveness and the renunciation that honor and decency required of me and that common sense enforced on me.”
— Reverend John Ames, in Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
“If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
— C. S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory,” The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses
“You wonder whether it is good to share your struggles with others, especially with those to whom you are called to minister. You find it hard not to mention your own pains and sorrows to those you are trying to help. You feel that what belongs to the core of your humanity should not be hidden. You want to be a fellow traveller, not a distant guide.
The main question is ‘Do you own your pain?’ As long as you do not own your pain — that is, integrate your pain into your way of being in the world — the danger exists that you will use the other to seek healing for yourself. When you speak to others about your pain without fully owning it, you expect something from them that they cannot give. As a result, you will feel frustrated, and those you wanted to help will feel confused, disappointed, or even further burdened.
But when you fully own your pain and do not expect those to whom you minister to alleviate it, you can speak about it in true freedom. Then sharing your struggle can become a service; then your openness about yourself can offer courage and hope to others.
For you to be able to share your struggle as a service, it is also essential to have people to whom you can go with your own needs. You will always need safe people to whom you can pour out your heart. You will always need people who do not need you but who can receive you and give you back to yourself. You will always need people who can help you own your pain and claim your struggle.
Thus the core question in your ministry is, ‘Is my sharing of my struggle in the service of the one who seeks my help?’ This question can only be answered yes when you truly own your pain and expect nothing from those who seek your ministry.”
— Henri J. M. Nouwen, “Own Your Pain,” The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish To Freedom (via godthings)
“Was it necessary for God to test the fiber of His children for forty years in the wilderness? Wouldn’t forty days have been enough? The process must go on … and on … and on.
John Buchan put it this way: ‘You have chosen the roughest road, but it goes straight to the hilltops.’
Through affairs of the heart God uncovers our true intentions: ‘… whether or no it was in your heart to keep his commandments. He humbled you and made you hungry; then he fed you on manna… .’
But it was not manna the people wanted. It was leeks and onions and garlic. It was meat and bread, wine and oil—ordinary food.
So it is with us. We’re created men and women. If Adam needed Eve and she was made for him, isn’t it natural, then, isn’t it altogether fitting and proper, that men and women should hunger for each other?
It is natural indeed. However, it’s not the only thing God has in mind for us. We are not meant to live merely by what is natural. We need to learn to live by the supernatural. Ordinary fare will not fill the emptiness in our hearts. Bread will not suffice. We need extraordinary fare. We need manna. How else will we learn to eat it, if we are never hungry? How will we educate our tastes for heavenly things if we are surfeited with earthly? Sex simply will not suffice any more than bread will.
My heart was saying, ‘Lord, take away this longing, or give me that for which I long.’ The Lord was answering, ‘I must teach you to long for something better.’
‘… He fed you on manna which neither you nor your fathers had known before, to teach you that man cannot live on bread alone but lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.’
God knew that giving me Jim when I wanted him would not provide the far more important training I needed for things to come. It was in learning to eat that Living Bread, sufficient always for one day at a time (not in advance for the five years I feared) that I was taught and disciplined and prepared for later things.”
— Elisabeth Elliot, Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Christ’s Control (via rosetesknota)
“Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while—yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
— 2 Corinthians 7:8-10 (New International Version 1984) (via godthings)
Last week, CNN.com ran an article asking if Christians are a “hated minority.” In the piece, some evangelical Christians suggest that they are being demonized for expressing their religious view that homosexuality is a sin, and that this is proof that Christian views are no longer tolerated in American society.
I had several initial responses to this:
- Those individuals don’t speak for all Christians.
- As I’ve said before on this blog, “homosexuality” is not a thing.
- This is a hot topic, so of course people will express their disagreement with you, whoever you are. No one on either side gets a free pass to avoid criticism.
- The issue isn’t just those individuals’ moral opposition to gay sex/marriage. A lot of it has to do with their language and attitude.
I decided to write an op-ed on this last point, explaining that the reason Christians have a bad reputation in today’s society has a lot to do with the perception that we lack empathy.
Well, today CNN published my letter on their website. Of course, they had to edit it a bit for their space (which, as an author, always feels a bit like having one’s child cut up and stitched back together), but they were very generous about letting me review the edits, and I think it still conveys my meaning.
Here’s how it starts:
In high school, I was a Christian know-it-all.
My nickname was “God boy,” and I was known for preaching at my friends about social issues of the day. I dismissed their objections—and accusations of homophobia—as intolerance for my faith.
“I’m just telling you what God’s Word says,” I’d argue.
Years later I realized my mistake. What my peers most objected to wasn’t my beliefs; it was my condescending attitude. I debated and preached when I should have listened. I thought that stating my position loudly and unyieldingly was a sign of strength. In the process, I alienated my friends.
I’m still an evangelical Christian, but one thing is now crystal clear to me. American evangelicals’ bad reputation isn’t just because of what we believe. It’s mostly because of how we behave.
You can read the rest on the CNN Belief Blog.