I've been reading through a compilation of Henri Nouwen's thoughts on Spiritual Direction in a book of that same title. In one of his chapters, he speaks of the importance of writing as a spiritual exercise/discipline to help us "discover what lives in us." Here are some of his thoughts:
"For me, to find God in the word often requires writing. Spiritual writing has a very important place in spiritual formation. Even so, writing is often the source of great pain and anxiety. It is remarkable how hard it is to sit down quietly and trust our own creativity...even after many years of writing, I experience real fear when I face the empty page. Why am I so afraid?
"The writing itself reveals to us what is alive in us. The deepest satisfaction of writing is precisely that it opens up new spaces within us of which we were not aware before we started to write. To write is to embark on a journey of which we do not know the final destination. Thus, writing requires a great act of trust. We have to say to ourselves: 'I do not yet know what I carry in my heart, but I trust that it will emerge as I write.'
"Writing is like giving away the few loaves and fishes we have, trusting that they will multiply in the giving. Once we dare to 'give away' on paper [or electronic blog] the few thoughts that come to us, we start discovering how much is hidden underneath these thoughts and thus we gradually come in touch with our own riches and resources" (99).
As I have journeyed with Jesus over the past several months, I've encountered spaces and places within my soul that are new to me. The newness presents both a thrill and a threat...and often as I've shared with others what I'm experiencing (mostly a deep unraveling of much of what I thought was important) I get cockeyed looks of concern or meddling formulaic fixes for my seemingly off-kiltered gait. I had one person ask me, "How do you want us to pray specifically for you in the weird place you are in?" As if I wasn't already feeling like a freak - I am tempted to feel out of place: too serious, or arrogant, or perhaps verging on, dare I say, heresy.
So, Henri has challenged me...dared me.
The blank page scares me. Sharing the blank page scares me even more. But do I believe that the few loaves and fishes that I'm stumbling upon - wondering how in the hell they will ever feed me - will somehow, when distributed via the hands of God, more than adequately feed 5000? I am dared to believe, but help my disbelief.
In the Biblical story (Matt 14:15-21) people ate as much as they wanted. It wasn't necessarily measured out equally nor fairly. People took what they wanted. Ate what they wanted. Until they were satisfied. There was no judgment or constraint on how much or little anyone took. At the end of the day the disciples aren't bummed because "So-and-So" didn't get his fair share or that Mrs. Farmer ate more than her fair share and pocketed some rolls. Their job was to distribute the goods. There was no "comment form" to register anonymous complaints. As far as we know, there were none because everyone ate until they were satisfied.
I am sheepish to offer/distribute what I've been given - to open myself up for critique, to be vulnerable, asking questions that I think I "should" know the answers to by now - especially as a career "religious" person. Or to ask questions that will likely make too many waves and/or draw too much attention to me or to those questions that we just don't ask in church. I prefer to wrestle in obscurity. Yet I feel invited, and compelled, to offer the doubt-riddled, inadequate loaves and fishes reflections (actually mostly questions)...about ministry, loneliness, spiritual union with God, women in ministry, spiritual direction, shame, inner healing - all without concern of who eats, how much they eat, if they criticize me for not offering steak and lobster instead and for not cooking their fish to perfection (ha - I don't even like seafood, raw or cooked!). How God multiplies, satisfies and/or unnerves people ... well, that is Her job. (I know - I offered that pesky gender pronoun on purpose...)
Join me on this pilgrimage if you'd like ...please. I am running across too many people who feel alone in the struggle. So, ask your questions with me... offer your loaves and fishes with me...and we'll see how God might just feed us and lead us to discover who we are and what is alive in us, and who we are being invited to become. May we come to discover and live more in touch with the lavish, fully satisfying riches and resources of God in the ordinariness of our daily questions.
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