[This, like the previous travelogues, is an entry in my own journal.]
Do those words give you peace or unrest? For a long time now, they have made you uneasy. You’ve been afraid of what the silence may reveal. You are afraid of solitude because you don’t fully trust yourself. But you don’t realize this. You run away from silence, you run away from solitude. You don’t stay long enough to get acquainted. You don’t even stay long enough to realize you are running. You just obey that impulse to run, and you seek all kinds of distractions and busyness to keep silence and solitude at bay.
Ironically, what you are running away from is the very thing that would calm your fear. If you only stayed long enough to see it. What is ‘it’? It is the inner voice of love deep within you. A voice so soft and quiet that it is constantly being drowned out by the din you surround yourself with. You drown it out because you are afraid of what is within you. You’re afraid that it is ugly…or worse, that there may be nothing there at all! You don’t wish to find out…and so you run.
You are divided, Ann. And until you learn to trust, to accept, and to forgive yourself, that broken part of you would not dare to return home to you. Why would you want that broken part of you? Because that is where God resides within you. Did you not realize that before? He came for the sinners, not for the righteous. He came to heal the wounded and broken-hearted, not for the healthy and happy. It is in that weakest, most broken part of you that you will find Him. Reject this part of you, Ann, and you reject God’s love for you. Accept it, love it, and you will find therein the power of healing love unleashed.
Why do you think it is only in your strengths that God resides? Why do you think you can only love yourself for your virtues? That is why you are afraid to know yourself…you are afraid of recognizing your weaknesses and your flaws. Silly girl. That’s your own limited reasoning. You are unique not only in your strengths, but also in your brokenness. The ways in which you are broken is as important to your identity as God’s child as are the ways in which you are strong.
Do you not realize that the greatest strength comes from embracing, rather than rejecting your brokenness? When you embrace your brokenness, you realize your brokenness is not evil. It reflects a yearning, a hunger, that God has given you. If you distrust this hunger, your heart will grow cold. You will shut yourself up to the other part of you. Your heart will turn bitter and shrivel with time.
That yearning within you is an impetus to keep you searching. This search makes you realize every now and then that only God can satisfy that hunger and thirst. There is no other worldly support that could satisfy this craving, Ann. Not in family, not in friends, not in anything material or human. Yet, because God created you in the flesh, your human needs are not evil. Indeed, God means for you to delight in your human relationships too, and to find in them the tangible manifestations of His perfect love for you. But you cannot forget, that ultimately, your heart will only find rest when it is resting in God’s love. And only then can you live more freely and abundantly.
So do not fear. Befriend that broken part of yourself. Be welcoming so that it will feel safe to return to you, knowing that you will not judge or condemn it, but love it. When you can find that broken part of yourself beautiful and lovable, you will realize you can find wisdom there too! And the strength you find from that wisdom is strength that heals rather than breaks. And when you embrace your weaker self, God will show you how to work with Him as He heals you and makes you whole.
You can’t heal yourself on your own strength, Ann. And you don’t have to. Trust. Love. Accept. Be patient. You will find that the silence is friendly…and that you are not alone in solitude. You will hear the inner voice of love. And you will begin to be transformed.
While these reflections are my own, they were triggered by Nouwen’s own profound and personal reflections during a period of anguish in his life. I am grateful that he decided to publish these entries of his own personal journey (eight years after the period of pain). Along with the scripture I have been listening to at daily mass, Nouwen’s reflections continues to be bread for my journey. Today’s reflection is inspired by an entry titled Live Patiently with the “Not Yet” in The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom.