This has been a really slow reading month for me, which kind of came as a surprise considering I thought I would find plenty of time to read while recovering from surgery. But, as it turns out, major surgery takes a lot out of you and being on medication makes it hard for me personally to concentrate for long periods of time. So it actually ended up being a pretty great thing that I picked up Henri Nouwen's book, "The Inner Voice of Love" at the beginning of the month, to carry me through the past several weeks!
Now to be honest, when purchasing this book, I flipped through it and thought I'd finish it in a day; two days tops. However as I began reading the introduction the author explained that this isn't that type of book. Sure it's possible to read it in a few hours, but it's suppose to be more of a meditation type thing, a devotional, that you read little by little and soak in over an extended period of time! That ended up fitting perfectly for me.
Now, I originally heard of Nouwen 13 or so years ago when I was living in California doing a missions program in the inner-city. I really hadn't thought about him much since then, until the beginning of this month when Jamie Torkowski (the founder of To Write Love On Her Arms.... whom I follow on instagram and twitter) kept posting quotes from another one of Henri's books and my pastor had mentioned him to me. Not being one to turn down a suggestion, I checked him out again and while I must admit, sometimes I got lost in the sage of advice of it all, I could connect with a lot of what he writes and the story behind his writing (this book in particular was taken from his own journal entries that he wrote for/to himself during a really dark period of his life).
While there were many quotes that stood out to me throughout my weeks of reading, there where two thoughts in particular that stuck out to me and that I continue to meditate on today....possibly because they fit together in many ways. First, he writes, "When you really believe that you are loved by God, you can allow your friends the freedom to respond to your love in their way. They have their own histories, their own characters, their own way of receiving lobe. They may be slower, more hesitant or more cautious than you. They may want to be with you in ways that are real and authentic for them but unusual for you. Trust that those who love you want to show you their love in a real way, even when their choices of time, place and form are different from yours". I needed to hear that, especially at a time when I have needed to rely on other people, ask them for help, have them come to me, and accept whatever of "themselves" they were willing to give. To be honest, I often have a tendency to want to be more of a doer in my relationships. I think I must do for you in order for us to be friends and that if I don't our relationship won't last. Because of that I tend to not really focus on what others are doing for me, and sadly, in the moments I do focus on what others are giving to me, I often have trouble accepting it as is. I, as many of us, like to be loved in certain ways and I expect people to see those ways and give me what I want/need as I want/need it. But life's not like that...and it's helped a lot to truly meditate on this passage and allow it to teach me to begin to accept not only God's love but the love of those around me in whatever random ways they are able to show it.
The other quote Henri shares that has definitely stuck out to me is that "No one person can fufill all your needs. But the community can truly hold you. The community can let you experience the fact that, beyond your anguish, there are human hands that hold you and show you God's faithfulness". I have only just begun to experience my first true sense of real community in the past few months through a life group I joined at my friends house. It's amazing and scary, fun and embarrassing, open and vulnerable in more ways then I can even begin to explain to myself, yet it's also exactly what this quote suggests.... the human hands of God linked together to hold and to show God's faithfulness. I am lucky to have this group. And I am also lucky to have other things in my life, like ...my friends, my family, my church. For me, over the last few months in particular, church has been a hard place for me. I have been dealing with so much and in so many ways I don't want to disappoint any of the people I care so desperately about there, that it's almost been easier to stay away and not let them see my struggle. But I guess I am realizing that this isn't what God calls us to. The church, His body, is His hands and feet and while yes, individually we will all disappoint and hurt each other, as a whole we can and do hold each other and carry each other to Jesus. Instead of shying away when things get hard, I need to trust the God in the people of the Church will be there even when things aren't so pretty.
So, while I guess this isn't much of a book review as it is a personal sharing, I would recommend this book and I would also suggest that you take the author seriously in reading it little by little, letting each thought and phrase soak into you and begin to change your heart.