Listenings: A Simple Way

Our exploration of Spiritual Formation through the pages of Henri Nouwen’s Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit is under way.  I’m glad you’re on the journey.  There’s still time to invite others to join us.

Ours is an exploration in simplicity.  Simplification is one of the paradoxes of the spiritual life—“less is better.”  But to begin here is to start our exploration at one of the most counter-cultural places we could possibly choose.  We live in a world which believes and practices just the opposite:  “more is better.”

But the fact is, we cannot enter through the door of the spiritual life with our life bags bulging and our hands so full that we cannot turn the knob on the door.  It is a “narrow way” that is the size of the eye of a needle, according to Jesus.

He was not talking about “narrowness” in the sense of legalism and/or judgmentalism, but rather in terms of the light-heartedness and empty-handedness which shrinks our ego down to its proper size and creates a humble spirit of receptivity to God.

So, Nouwen’s book is called “a primer on how to live the spiritual life” (p. vii).

Editors Michael Christensen and Rebecca Laird continue their Preface by writing, Rather than being about steps to enlightenment, this book is about the practices of the heart.  Instead of progressive stages of development, it is about movements–from the things that enslave and destroy to liberation and life” (p. vii).

Perhaps that is why I was drawn to the book.  I live in an over-stimulated, excessively busy, dangerously superficial world.  I suspect you do too.  My heart cries out for a way of living (inwardly and outwardly) that, at one and the same time, challenges the illusions and constructs the realities of life, on God’s terms.

We will follow the wisdom  of Nouwen as a path to take us into the Wisdom of God.  We will begin simply—as “little children.”  Sounds familiar, doesn’t it!

About jstevenharper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 31 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church
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