I’ve been reading a delightful book called Love, Henri: Letters on The Spiritual Life. The letters are written by Henri J. M. Nouwen and have been compiled and edited by Gabrielle Earnshaw. I doubt that Henri Nouwen is a stranger to readers of Christian devotional literature. For the uninitiated, he was a Catholic priest, professor, and author of 39 books on the spiritual life that have sold over 8 million copies in 28 languages. Even though Nouwen died in 1996 in his home country of Holland, his influence continues to live on due to the depth and beauty of his writings (henrinouwen.org).
In the book I’m currently reading one can find a compendium of letters written to friends, confidants, and strangers. It’s a good thing he did not live in the days of email or these treasures would be lost in cyberspace.
Over the next few weeks I’d like to highlight some quotes from his letters and reflect on them briefly.
To his friend Jim Antal, who was struggling with faithfulness and spiritual dryness, Henri writes…
The first and most important task we have is to keep our eyes on God and Him alone. We will never overcome the demons by analyzing them, but only by forgetting them in an all-consuming love for God. … But you need a spiritual discipline. You need a lot of time to pray, to spend time in solitude and to speak regularly about your love for God, and God’s love for you. … I wished that you could spend a good amount of time in a place where you can do nothing else than pray. Pray with words, songs, silence, or just pray by being here and now.Love, Henri, p. 21
Maybe sometimes we attempt to defeat our temptations by analyzing them – deciding how they behave, when they occur, what our response will be when faced with them. Henri urges us to not do this. He doesn’t believe we should be so focused on our temptations. Instead we should focus on “an all-consuming love for God“. When the love of God floods our hearts and minds there is no room for anything else.
No wonder Jesus keeps bringing Scripture to the Tempter in the Wilderness. His heart and mind was full of His Father’s will. As is indicated, though, this comes about in solitude with the Lord. I would venture to say that most Christians today do not have a regular quiet time with God. I struggle with it myself. I spend a lot of time studying the Bible and preparing lessons and sermons, but I notice my spirit is not quite as lively when I do not spend time in the Word for ME, not for my ministry.
I wonder what spiritual power we are sacrificing because we will not give up time to spend with the Lord who loves us so deeply? It’s not always easy, but it doesn’t have to be so hard either. As Henri says, “just pray by being here and now.” When is the last time that it was just you, and the Father, present here and now?
Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. – Mark 1:35