What moves you?
Money? Sex? Power? A dream?
I wish I could say without the slightest hesitation that it is Jesus the Messiah. I wish that I could look you straight in the eye right now and tell you that my top desire is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. Unfortunately, I know that this is not the case. I am a man who often wants to do X, but instead chooses to do Y instead. Can you relate?
This despair led me to the writings of Henri Nouwen. In case you haven’t been introduced to his works, Nouwen was a Catholic priest and prolific author of 40 books. I first encountered him in a class on Christian Spirituality at Fuller and his book The Way of the Heart about Silence & Solitude deeply influenced me. His constant reminder and example as a man of prayer is something I want to explore for the next few Wednesdays. The themes will come from a compiled book on Nouwen about prayer called The Only Necessary Thing.
Human beings desire something. We desire something special. St Augustine would write that our hearts are restless until they rest in God. What do you think about that?
Nouwen in The Only Necessary Thing would similarly suggest that we mainly desire communion (“union with”). Certainly, we look for union in many things, both good and bad. Whether in marriage, friendships, recognitions, or successes, we look to belong with something or someone.
Yes, desire is a good thing. Please don’t journey down the road of the Eastern mystics or Stoics that seek to remove desire. It is a natural thing that causes both immense pain and joy. Nouwen remarks that Jesus came to proclaim that “our desire for communion is not in vain, but will be fulfilled by the One who gave us that desire.” Perhaps Augustine was right. Maybe we do yearn for something more.
Nouwen makes the connection that the more we desire God and the more we pray (through living a prayerful life), the more we desire to pray. Just as there are vicious circles that lead people into bad habits, this pattern of prayer leading to more prayer is a victorious circle that lead people into a Kingdom building life.
Having discovered a desire to love God though will not just have us end there. No, it’s a love that needs to be cultivated. Like a rose garden, a marriage, or planted field, it needs to be tended daily. Nouwen would suggest that after we have found the treasure of God’s love, we are then put onto a new quest. It is a quest that will not be completed on our own terms though. We cannot just pray on our own time, and expect God to show up at 630AM every day. He could be trying to reach us at 11:05am, or perhaps 3:32pm, or 6:58pm. God is not a tame house cat, instead he is a lion like Aslan, one that is good but never safe.
“A truly spiritual life is life in which we won’t rest until we have found rest in the embrace of the One who is the Father and Mother of all desires.”