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

 

Know Yourself as Truly Loved

Some people have lived such oppressed lives that their true selves have become completely unreachable to them. They need help to break through their oppression. Their power to free themselves has to be at least as strong as the power that keeps them down. Sometimes they need permission to explode: to let out their deepest emotions and to shake off the alien forces. Screaming, yelling, crying, and even physical fighting might be expressions of liberation.

You, however, do not seem to need such explosion. For you, the problem is not to get something out of your system but to take something in that deepens and strengthens your sense of your goodness and allows your anguish to be embraced by love.

You will discover that the more love you can take in and hold on to, the less fearful you will become. You will speak more simply, more directly, and more freely about what is important to you, without fear of other people's reactions. You will also use fewer words, trusting that you communicate your true self even when you do not speak much.

The disciples of Jesus had a real sense of his loving presence as they went out to preach. They had seen him, eaten with him, and spoken with him after his resurrection. They had come to live a deep connectedness with him and drew from that connectedness the strength to speak out with simplicity and directness, unafraid of being misunderstood or rejected.

The more you come to know yourself - spirit, mind, and body - as truly loved, the freer you will be to proclaim the good news. That is the freedom of the children of God.

 

Protect Your Innocence

Being a child of God does not make you free from temptations. You might have moments when you feel so blessed, so in God, so loved that you forget you are still living in a world of powers and principalities. But your innocence as a child of God needs to be protected. Otherwise, you will easily be pulled out of your true self and ,experience me devastating force of the darkness surrounding you.

This being pulled out may come as a great surprise. Before you are even fully aware of it or have had a chance to consent to it, you may find yourself overwhelmed by lust, anger, resentment, or greed. A picture, a person, or a gesture may trigger these strong, destructive emotions and seduce your innocent self.

As a child of God, you need to be prudent. You cannot simply walk around in this world as if nothing and no one can harm you. You remain extremely vulnerable. The same passions that make you love God may be used by the powers of evil.

The children of God need to support, protect, and hold one another dose to God's heart. You belong to a minority in a large, ho stile world. As you become more aware of your true identity as a child of God, you will also see more dearly the many forces that try to convince you that all things spiritual are false substitutes for the real things of life.

When you are temporarily pulled out of your true self, you can have the sudden feeling that God is just a word, prayer is fantasy, sanctity is a dream, and the eternal life is an escape from true living. Jesus was tempted in this way, and so are we.

Do not trust your thoughts and feelings when you are pulled out of yourself. Return quickly to your true place, and pay no attention to what tricked you. Gradually you will come to be more prepared for these temptations, and they will have less and less power over you. Protect your innocence by holding on to the truth: you are a child of God and deeply loved.

Let Your Lion Lie Down with Your Lamb

There is within you a lamb and a lion. Spiritual maturity is the ability to let lamb and lion lie down together. Your lion is your adult, aggressive self. It is your initiative-taking and decision-making self. But there is also your fearful, vulnerable lamb, the part of you that needs affection, support, affirmation, and nurturing.

When you heed only your lion, you will find yourself overextended and exhausted. When you take notice only of your lamb, you will easily become a victim of your need for other people's attention. The art of spiritual living is to fully claim both your lion and your lamb. Then you can act assertively without denying your own needs. And you can ask for affection and care without betraying your talent to offer leadership.

Developing your identity as a child of God in no way means giving up your responsibilities. Likewise, claiming your adult self in no way means that you cannot become increasingly a child of God. In fact, the opposite is true. The more you can feel safe as a child of God, the freer you will be to claim your mission in the world as a responsible human being. And the more you claim that you have a unique task to fulfill for God, the more open you will be to letting your deepest need be met.

The kingdom of peace that Jesus came to establish begins when your lion and your lamb can freely and fearlessly lie down together.

Be a Real Friend

Friendship has been a source of great pain for you. You desired it so much that you often lost yourself in the search for a true friend. Many times you became desperate when a friendship you hoped for didn't materialize, or when a friendship begun with great expectations did not last.

Many of your friendships grew from your need for affection, affirmation, and emotional support. But now you must seek friends to whom you can relate from your center, from the place where you know that you are deeply loved. Friendship becomes more and more possible when you accept yourself as deeply loved. Then you can be with others in a non-possessive way. Rea! friends find their inner correspondence where both know the love of God. There spirit speaks to spirit and heart to heart.

True friendships are lasting because true love is eternal. A friendship in which heart speaks to heart is a gift from God, and no gift that comes from God is temporary or occasional. All that comes from God participates in God's eternal life. Love between people, when given by God, is stronger than death. In this sense, true friendships continue beyond the boundary of death. When you have loved deeply, that love can grow even stronger after the death of the person you love. That is the core message of Jesus.

When Jesus died, the disciples' friendship with him did not diminish. On the contrary, it grew. This is what the sending of the Spirit was all about. The Spirit of Jesus made Jesus' friendship with his disciples everlasting, stronger and more intimate than before his death. That is what Paul experienced when he said, 'It is no longer I, but Christ living in me' (Galatians 2:20).

You have to trust that every true friendship has no end, that a communion of saints exists among all those, living and dead, who have truly loved God and one another. You know from experience how real this is. Those you have loved deeply and who have died live on in you, not just as memories but as real presences.

Dare to love and to be a real friend. The love you give and receive is a reality that will lead you closer and closer to God as well as to those whom God has given you to love.

Trust Your Friends

You keep looking for proof of friendship, but in doing so you harm yourself. When you give something to your friends, do not keep waiting for a concrete response, a thank-you. When you really believe that you are loved by God, you can allow your friends the freedom to respond to your love in their way. They have their own histories, their own characters, their own ways of receiving love. They may be slower, more hesitant, or more cautious than you. They may want to be with you in ways that are real and authentic for them but unusual for you. Trust that those who love you want to show you their love in a real way, even when their choices of rime, place, and form are different from yours.

Much of your ability to trust your friends depends on your belief in your own goodness. When you give a gift freely and spontaneously, do not worry about your motives. Don't say to yourself, 'Maybe I gave this gift to get something in return. Maybe I gave this gift to force my friend into a closeness he or she does not want.' Trust your intuitions.

Allow your friends the freedom to respond as they want and are able to. Let their receiving be as free as your giving. Then you will become capable of feeling true gratitude.

Control Your Own Drawbridge

You must decide for yourself to whom and when you give access to your interior life. For years you have permitted others to walk in and out of your life according to their needs and desires. Thus you were no longer master in your own house, and you felt increasingly used. So, too, you quickly became tired, irritated, angry, and resentful.

Think of a medieval castle surrounded by a moat. The drawbridge is the only access to the interior of the castle. The lord of the castle must have the power to decide when to draw the bridge and when to let it down. Without such power, he can become the victim of enemies, strangers, and wanderers. He will never feel at peace in his own castle.

It is important for you to control your own drawbridge. There must be rimes when you keep your bridge drawn and have the opportunity to be alone or only with those to whom you feel dose. Never allow yourself to become public property, where anyone can walk in and out at will. You might think that you are being generous in giving access to anyone who wants to enter or leave, but you will soon find yourself losing your soul.

When you claim for yourself the power over your drawbridge, you will discover new joy and peace in your heart and find yourself able to share that joy and peace with others.

Avoid All Forms of Self- Rejection

You must avoid not only blaming others but also blaming yourself. You are inclined to blame yourself for the difficulties you experience in relationships. But self-blame is not a form of humility. It is a form of self-rejection in which you ignore or deny your own goodness and beauty.

When a friendship does not blossom, when a word is not received, when a gesture of love is not appreciated, do not blame it on yourself. This is both untrue and hurtful. Every time you reject yourself, you idealize others. You want to be with those whom you consider better, stronger, more intelligent, more gifted than yourself. Thus you make yourself emotionally dependent, leading others to fee! unable to fulfill your expectations and causing them to withdraw from you. This makes you blame yourself even more, and you enter a dangerous spiral of self-rejection and neediness.

Avoid all forms of self-rejection. Acknowledge your limitations, but claim your unique gifts and thereby live as an equal among equals. That will set you free from your obsessive and possessive needs and enable you to give and receive true affection and friendship.

Take Up Your Cross

Your pain is deep, and it won't just go away. It is also uniquely yours, because it is linked to some of your earliest life experiences.

Your call is to bring that pain home. As long as your wounded part remains foreign to your adult se1£, your pain will injure you as well as others. Yes, you have to incorporate your pain into your self and let it bear fruit in your heart and the hearts of others.

This is what Jesus means when he asks you to take up your cross. He encourages you to recognize and embrace your unique suffering and to trust that your way to salvation lies therein. Taking up your cross means, first of all, befriending your wounds and letting them reveal to you your own truth.

There is great pain and suffering in the world. But the pain hardest to bear is your own. Once you have taken up that cross, you will be able to see dearly the crosses that others have to bear, and you will be able to reveal to them their own ways to joy, peace, and freedom.

Keep Trusting Godís Call

As you come to realize that God is beckoning you to a greater hiddenness, do not be afraid of that invitation. Over the years you have allowed the voices that call you to action and great visibility to dominate your life. You still think, even against your own best intuitions, that you need to do things and be seen in order to follow your vocation. But you are now discovering that God's voice is saying, 'Stay home, and trust that your life will be fruitful even when hiddení.

It is not going to be easy to listen to God's call. Your insecurity, your self-doubt, and your great need for affirmation make you lose trust in your inner voice and run away from yourself. But you know that God speaks to you through your inner voice and that you will find joy and peace only if you follow it. Yes, your spirit is willing to follow, but your flesh is weak.

You have friends who know that your inner voice speaks the truth and who can affirm what it says. They offer you the safe space where you can let that voice become dearer and louder. There will be people who will tell you that you are wasting your time and talents, that you are fleeing from true responsibility, that you fail to use the influence you have. But don't let yourself be misled. They do not speak. in God's name. Trust the few who know your inner journey and want you to be faithful to it. They will help you stay faithful to God's call.

Claim the Victory

You are still afraid to die. That fear is connected with the fear that you are not loved. Your question 'Do you love me?' and your question 'Do I have to die?' are deeply connected. You asked these questions as a little child, and you are still asking them.

As you come to know that you are loved fu1ly and unconditionally, you will also come to know that you do not have to fear death. Love is stronger than death; God's love was there for you before you were born and will be there for you after you have died.

Jesus has called you from the moment you were knitted together in your mother's womb. It is your vocation to receive and give love. But from the very beginning you have experienced the forces of death. They attacked you all through your years of growing up. You have been faithful to your vocation even though you have often felt overwhelmed by darkness. You know now that these dark forces will have no final power over you. They seem overwhelming, but the victory is already won. It is the victory of Jesus, who has called you. He overcame for you the power of death so that you could live in freedom.

You have to claim that victory and not live as if death still controlled you. Your soul knows about the victory, but your mind and emotions have not fu1ly accepted it. They go on struggling. In this respect you remain a person of little faith. Trust the victory and let your mind and emotions gradually be converted to the truth. You will experience new joy and new peace as you let that truth reach every part of your being. Donít forget: victory has been won, the powers of darkness no longer rule, love is stronger than death.