HENRY J.M. NOUWEN
The inner voice of love

A Journey Through Anguish To Freedom

Darton, Lonman and Todd Ltd Ė London 1997

Acknowledgements Introduction A Suggestion to the Reader
Work Around Your Abyss Trust in the Place of Unity Tell Your Story in Freedom
Cling to the Promise Remain Attentive to Your Best Intuitions Find the Source of Your Loneliness
Stop Being a Pleaser Bring Your Body Home Keep Returning to the Road to Freedom
Trust the Inner Voice Enter the New Country Let Jesus Transform You
Cry Inward Keep Living Where God Is Befriend Your Emotions
Always Come Back to the Solid Place Rely on Your Spiritual Guides Follow Your Deepest Calling
Set Boundaries to Your Love Go into the Place of Your Pain Remain Anchored in Your Community
Give Gratuitously Open Yourself to the First Love Stay with Your Pain
Come Home Acknowledge Your Powerlessness Live Patiently with the 'Not Yet'
Understand the Limitations of Others Seek a New Spirituality Keep Moving Towards Full Incarnation
See Yourself Truthfully Know Yourself as Truly Loved Face the Enemy
Receive All the Love That Comes to You Protect Your Innocence Continue Seeking Communion
Stay United with the Larger Body Let Your Lion Lie Down with Your Lamb Separate the False Pains from the Real Pain
Love Deeply Be a Real Friend Say Often, 'Lord, Have Mercy'
Stand Erect in Your Sorrow Trust Your Friends Let God Speak Through You
Let Deep Speak to Deep Control Your Own Drawbridge Know That You Are Welcome
Allow Yourself to be Fully Received Avoid All Forms of Self-Rejection Permit Your Pain to Become the Pain
Claim Your Unique Presence in Your Community Take Up Your Cross Give Your Agenda to God
Accept Your Identity as a Child of God Keep Trusting God's Call Let Others Help You Die
Own Your Pain Claim the Victory Live Your Wounds Through
For Now, Hide Your Treasure
Keep Choosing God
Conclusion

 

Work Around Your Abyss

There is a deep hole in your being, like an abyss. You will never succeed in filling that hole, because your needs are inexhaustible. You have to work around it so that gradually the abyss doses.

Since the hole is so enormous and your anguish so deep, you will always be tempted to flee from it. There are two extremes to avoid: being completely absorbed in your pain and being distracted by so many things that you stay far away from the wound you want to heal.

Cling to the Promise

Do not tell everyone your story. You will on1y end up feeling more rejected. People cannot give you what you long for in your heart. The more you expect from people's response to your experience of abandonment, the more you will feel exposed to ridicule.

You have to dose yourself to the outside world so you can enter your own heart and the heart of God through your pain. God will send to you the people with whom you can share your anguish, who can lead you doser to the true source of love.

God is faithful to God's promises. Before you die, you will find the acceptance and the love you crave. It will not come in the way you expect. It will not follow your needs and wishes. But it will fili your heart and satisfy your deepest desire. There is nothing to hold on to but this promise. Everything else has been taken away from you. Cling to that naked promise in faith. Your faith will heal you.

Stop Being a Pleaser

You have to let your father and father 6.gures go. You must stop seeing yourself through their eyes and trying to make them proud of you.

For as long as you can remember, you have been a pleaser, depending on others to give you an identity. You need not look at that on1y in a negative way. You wanted t0 give your heart to others, and you did so quickly and easily. But now you are being asked to let go of all these self-made props and trust that God is enough for you. You must stop being a pleaser and reclaim your identity as a free self.

Trust the inner voice

Do you really want to be converted? Are you willing to be transformed? Or do you keep clutching your old ways of life with one hand while with the other you beg people to help you change?

Conversion is certainly not something you can bring about yourself. It is not a question of will-power. You have to trust the inner voice that shows the way. You know that inner voice. You turn to it often. But after you have heard with clarity what you are asked to do, you start raising questions, fabricating objections, and seeking everyone else's opinion. Thus you become entangled in countless often contradictory thoughts, feelings, and ideas and lose touch with the God in you. And you end up dependent on all the people you have gathered around you.

0nly by attending constantly to the inner voice can you be converted to a new life of freedom and joy.

Cry inward

A split between divinity and humanity has taken place in you. With your divinely endowed centre you know God's will, God's way, God's love. But your humanity is cut off from that. Your many human needs for affection, attention, and consolation are living apart from your divine sacred space. Your call is to let these two parts of yourself come together again.

You have to move gradually from crying outward - crying out for people who you think can fulfill your needs - to crying inward to the place where you can let yourself be held and carried by God, who has become incarnate in the humanity of those who love you in community. No one person can fulfill all your needs. But the community can truly hold you. The community can let you experience the fact that, beyond your anguish, there are human hands that hold you and show you God's faithful love.

Always Come Back to the Solid Place

You must believe in the yes that comes back when you ask, 'Do. you love me?' You must choose this yes even when you do not experience it.

You feel overwhelmed by distractions, fantasies, the disturbing desire to throw yourself into the world of pleasure. But you know already that you will not find there an answer to your deepest question. Nor does the answer lie in rehashing old events, or in guilt or shame. All of that makes you dissipate yourself and, leave the rock on which your house is built.

You have to trust the place that is solid, the place where you cm say yes to God's love even when you do not fed it.

Right now you fed nothing except emptiness and the lack of strength to choose. But keep saying, 'God loves me, and God's lave is enough'. You have to choose the solid place over and over again and return to it after every failure.

Set Boundaries to Your Love

When people show you their boundaries ('I cant do this for you'), you fed rejected. You cannot accept the fact that others are unable to do for you all that you expect from them. You desire boundless love, boundless care, boundless giving.

Part of your struggle is to set boundaries to your own love - something you have never done. You give whatever people ask of you, and when they ask for more, you give more, until you find yourself exhausted, used, and manipulated. Only when you are able to set your own boundaries will you be able to acknowledge, respect, and even be grateful for the boundaries of others.

In the presence of the people you love, your needs grow and grow, until those people are so overwhelmed by your needs that they are practically forced to leave you for their own survival.

The great task is to claim yourself for yourself, so that you can contain your needs within the boundaries of your self and hold them in the presence of those you love. True mutuality in love requires people who possess themselves and who can give to each other while holding on to their own identities. So, in order both to give more effectively and to be more self-contained with your needs, you must learn to set boundaries to your love.

Give Gratuitously

Your love, insofar as it is from God, is permanent. You can claim the permanence of your love as a gift from God. And you can give that permanent love to others. When others stop loving you, you do not have to stop loving them. On a human level, changes might be necessary, but on the level of the divine, you can remain faithful to your love.

One day you will be free to give gratuitous love, a love that does not ask for anything in return. One day also you will be free to receive gratuitous love. Often love is offered to you, but you do not recognize it. You discard it because you are fixed on receiving it from the same person to whom you gave it.

The great paradox of love is that precisely when you have claimed yourself as God's beloved child, have set boundaries to your love, and thus contained your needs, you begin to grow into the freedom to give gratuitously.

Come Home

There are two realities to which you must cling. First, God has promised that you will receive the love you have been searching for. And second, God is faithful to that promise.

So stop wandering around. Instead, come home and trust that God will bring you what you need. Your whole life you have been running about, seeking the love you desire. Now it is time to end that search. Trust that God will give you that all-fulfi11ing love and will give it in a human way. Before you die, God will offer you the deepest satisfaction you can desire. Just stop running and start trusting and receiving.

Home is where you are truly safe. It is where you can receive what you desire. You need human hands to hold you there so you donít run away again. But when you come home and stay home, you will find the love that will bring rest to your heart.

Understand the Limitations of Others

"You keep listening to those who seem to reject you. But they never speak about you. They speak about their own limitations. They confess their poverty in the face of your needs and desires. They simply ask for your compassion. They do not say that you are bad, ugly, or despicable. They say only that you are asking for something they cannot give and that they need to get some distance from you to survive emotionally. The sadness is that you perceive their necessary withdrawal as a rejection of you instead of as a call to return home and discover there your true belovedness.