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go there naked

Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) was a Dutch-born Roman Catholic priest and author of 30 books. He taught at Notre Dame, Yale, and Harvard divinity schools and worked for a time as a missionary in Latin America.  He spent his last ten years living among developmentally disabled people at L’Arche Daybreak Community in Toronto.

Following the breakdown of an intimate relationship, he reportedly lost the energy to live and work, his sense of being loved, even his hope in God. Here’s an excerpt from a journal he kept during that prolonged crisis. As this dear man writes to himself, he speaks to us all. 

You have an idea of what the new country looks like. Still, you are very much at home, although not truly at peace, in the old country. You know the ways of the old country, its joys and pains, its happy and sad moments. You have spent most of your days there.  …

Now you have come to realise that you must leave it and enter the new country, where your Beloved dwells. You know what helped and guided you in the old country no longer works, but what else do you have to go by? You are being asked to trust that you will find what you need in the new country. …

Trust is so hard, since you have nothing to fall back on. Still, trust is what is essential. The new country is where you are called to go, and the only way to go there is naked and vulnerable.

source: Nouwen, H.J.M. (1996/1997). The inner voice of love: a journey through anguish to freedom. London: Darton, Longman, and Todd, p.18.


8 responses »

  1. Trust is so hard but sometimes that is all we can do.

  2. i keep using “trust” in the context of “trusting in.” as such trusting is the last thing i’m able to do when i’m afraid, when I don’t trust anyone or anything.

    zen teacher Hogen Bays asks us to have “deep faith.” when i asked him what he meant, he explained it as faith itself, not in or for anything.

    i continue to be perplexed by the concept. anyone?

  3. For me to trust while my son is going through his confusing time, is to surrender my fears, even my fear of his death.

  4. I remember taking a Religious Studies course many eons ago at University and being totally perplexed by the concept of faith. I just didn’t get it. I couldn’t wrap my head around it at all. It defied logic. And that I think, is precisely it. Faith comes from the heart not from the head, so while I think I can experience faith, I can’t really understand it. My Zen teacher talks about “looking up”. Perhaps that is a good working definition, because really what I think we are looking for is to have faith, not necessarily understand it.

    And I agree that it does not relate to anything in particular, as faith in…. Good topic Peter, I might just stand on your shoulders and use it as my post topic today!

  5. Carole, your comment sent me scurrying to see what the Roman Catholic monk Thomas Merton said on “faith.” Here’s a prayer (not sure of the source, but it’s somewhere on my shelf if anyone needs it):

    “My Lord God I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

    But I believe that my desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.

    Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

  6. For me, studying and analyzing my life has its place; but when the limits of that are reached, i just have to let go, and my heart connection usually guides me from there.
    “Let go and let God”…. (whatever your God is)

  7. okay we’re on to an interesting thing here. In the Merton writing my understanding of it is he is having faith in something, faith in God. In Buddhism I think of it as faith that things unfold as they should (or is that faith in something as well?) That all is well and we find what we need to learn along the way. It can often not be what we’d choose but somehow it is what we need?

    Letting go is probably a very large expression of faith in many cases.

  8. yes, Merton has faith in God’s guidance. Buddhist teaching points to having faith per se … or in the unfolding of Truth … or “whatever.” All are abstract to me, mere labels (or absence of labels).

    The lines in Merton that strike me are: ” … I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.” … and then …”Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

    Not being trained in either theology or philosophy, it seems to me that the pivotal words is the “you” in the last sentence. Whatever “you” or “it” that shines light into my darkness, or pulls the blinds when things get too bright … THAT i’m learning to trust.


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