by: Denise Robinson
Take 10 @ 10:00 - A Weekly Devotional
Henri Nouwen is one of my favorite theologians and authors. Years ago he published a short book of letters written to his 19-year old nephew, Marc. The purpose of these letters was to respond to a void Marc felt in his life and in these letters, Nouwen shares in an honest way the spiritual life he has found.
Letter 1: Jesus: The Heart of Our Existence
Well now, I've got around to it at last .. is writing to you essential? Of course not, at least in the usual sense of the word .. So why do you need letters from me? When we spoke together about these letters, you said that you really did need them. You are asking yourself, "What do I really believe? What kind of role does the church play in my life? Who is Christ for me?" You might say that within the last year or so a new need has been brought to birth inside you: the need to look in the midst of everything you have and are doing, for the meaning and purpose of your life .. You're asking yourself, "Even if I am a big success, so what?"
[Nouwen notes that Marc has the ability to explore these questions because he doesn't have to concern himself with matters of daily survival - he is intelligent, well-off, talented, has family and friends, and other interests.]
It is indeed the life of the spirit with which we are dealing here:
that is what these letters must be about. Now, if you set out to confront issues that affect the meaning of your life, you can't adopt an approach based purely on reason. Questions about the meaning of your life affect your whole person .. Living spiritually .. concerns the core of your humanity.
The spiritual life has to do with the heart of existence. This is a good word. By heart I do not mean the seat of our feelings as opposed to the seat of our thoughts; I mean the center of our being, the place where we are most ourselves .. I want to make sure you understand the word 'heart' because for me it is such an important word in the life of the spirit.
When I write to you about the spiritual life, I do so as a Christian whose experience is that of living his Christianity. .. I want to give you a taste of the richness of life as a Christian as I know it, experience it, and continue to discover it. I really do believe that I have something of importance to tell you ..
[I have learned] that raising questions about the spiritual life leads more to a new way of living than to a new way of thinking .. In every phase of my search I've also discovered that Jesus Christ stands at the center of my seeking. If you were ever to ask me point-blank, "What does it mean to you to live spiritually?" I would have to reply, "Living with Jesus at the center." .. When I look back over my life, I can say that for me, the person of Jesus has come to be more and more important. Increasingly what matters is getting to know Jesus and living in solidarity with him .. Jesus has stepped out in front again and asked me, "And you, who do you say that I am?" It has become clearer to me than ever that my personal relationship with Jesus is the heart of my existence.
Who is Jesus to you? Read Matthew 16:13-19. Peter was asked that question. Nouwen was asked that question and says that the question is one that continues to be asked of him. It's a question we should regularly consider, because our answer should change as our faith matures.
For this week's devotional, I invite you over the next few days to sit down and write a letter. It can be to yourself or to any other person (real or fictional). This will be the first letter in a series so, as with Nouwen's first letter, it serves as an introduction for letters to follow. The question for this week concerns the importance of a spiritual life to you. What does it mean to be a Christian? What is at the heart of your faith?
Have a blessed week!