On Obeying the Traffic Signs (Part 2)
When we get into this kind of frame of mind, this need to hurry up and rush and get there, we miss everything that happens in between “here” and “there.”
In school, we cram for tests and immediately after forget everything we learned. In relationships, we force people into the expectations and assumptions we already laid out for them. In our spiritual lives, we speak and act according to the authority we recognize without ever considering for ourselves what we really think, how we really feel, and who God really is in our own experience.
Culture doesn’t help. We’re encouraged and even required to fill up our lives with busy-ness, productivity, activity, movement, achievement, and DOING without allowing for any space of quiet, rest, stillness, or being.
But sometimes, if we are attentive enough in the moment, we might notice signs alerting us that we are soon to be driving through a construction zone. We might be able to justify breaking the speed limit (just a little) in construction-free areas, but now the signs warn us of an extra consequence: traffic fines are doubled in construction zones.
Now we have to slow down.
As we begin to pay attention to the traffic signs in our lives, learn to slow down, and sometimes even stop altogether at the roadblocks in our lives, we may recognize — as I did — that we are being routed a whole new way.
My detour has been neither the shortest distance nor the fastest route to my destination. Rather, this detour I am on is the only way to the place where I am going. Without this detour, I would still be spinning my wheels at the roadblock, intent on taking the road I had chosen and ignoring all the signs around me telling me it was not the way.
In The Way of the Heart, Henri Nouwen talks about the phrase, Peregrinatio est tacere: to be silent keeps us pilgrims. Ironic that just at the time that I am finding my voice and learning to use it, I am also learning the value of silence in my own life as well as the value of my own silence in the lives of others. Silence keeps us moving down the path, keeps us walking toward God. In silence we learn the value of our words; we learn wisdom; we learn purification of the heart. To walk this path, the path toward God, we must be silent.
Nouwen also talks about the Greek word hesychia, meaning “the rest which flows from unceasing prayer, needs to be sought at all costs, even when the flesh is itchy, the world alluring, and the demons noisy.” Nouwen describes this kind of prayer as the prayer of the heart, “a prayer that directs itself to God from the center of the person and thus affects the whole of our humanness.”
The prayer of the heart, then, is prayer born out of silence and solitude, defined by a rest that keeps us moving forward toward God, and encompassing our whole selves — mind, body, and spirit.
This is what creating a holistic body theology is moving us toward: a full integration of our whole selves in pursuit of the God who created us a mind-body-spirit beings.
Over the next few months, I’ll be moving toward creating a more intentionally spiritual component to Holistic Body Theology Blog. While there will still be an emphasis on the categories of body theology as defined here, the blog will also be a work in progress toward fuller integration.
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I invite your thoughts, perspectives, and ideas along the way. You can always reach me in the comments section, on my Facebook page, or by email at bodytheologyblog at gmail dot com.
Posted on January 23, 2013, in Spirituality and tagged Christianity, God, Henri Nouwen, Jesus Prayer, Prayer, Religion and Spirituality, Traffic sign. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.
I’ve really become more aware of Nouwen lately, and really appreciate his insights. I liked what you included from him. I’m going to follow you from my blog. Here’s what I wrote, in case you’re interested: http://downwardmobility.net/2013/01/
Hi Bill, thanks for stopping by and for the follow. I enjoyed reading your blog, too, and look forward to seeing how it grows. Down, not up! – Laura
I’m glad to be linked! I read quite a few blogs today, so I don’t remember if this quote applied to what I read from you or otherwise, but maybe you’ll appreciate it anyway, “Confronted with inexplicable injustice, it is better to be irate than resigned.” William Safire in The First Dissident (his book on Job) I would think this applies when we read what seem like outrageous things in the Scripture, seemingly unaccountable things – that we would feel free to express dismay, doubt, cognitive dissonance, perhaps outrage – while at the same time, like Habakkuk on his wall, waiting in faith to see how -even “if” – God will answer – and maintaining faith in him whether he does or not, whether our questions are answered or not – and yet, we don’t just submit and swallow what we read, pressing our doubts and instincts down into our toes (Like Marge told Lisa to do on that episode of the Simpsons!), we hold on to those too. What I read earlier today was a Christian who read about God seeming (?) to order genocide in the case of Jericho, and that Christian saying he had no problem with it since it was in the Bible. Oye. Please, not that. (Perhaps these musings are the start on another downward mobility entry!) 🙂
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