Saturday, May 24, 2008

Journey Toward Intimacy

More stuff from Nouwen, with my two cents added:

"God-for-us" is basically the Old Testament understanding of God -- Him going to battle for His people.

"God-with-us" is the more intimate understanding of God that we get from Jesus coming to earth and become one of us to be near us.

"God-within-is" is the most intimate understanding of God that we get from the spirit being literally within His people.

So salvation history plays out God revealing Himself in increasingly more intimate ways.

Yet we don't start at the most intimate stage, even though we are there on the historical timeline. We, as individuals and as a communites, have to grow through those stages to the most intimate. And we struggle to do so.

We are mostly stuck in "God is for us." That may explain why we are so fixated on perserving or returning the U.S. to be a "Christian nation." We want God battling for His nation.

On our best days we get focused instead on the Kingdom and on the whole understanding that God came to be with us, which changes everything. We start to understand and be changed by this more intimate love.

But we really struggle to get to the most intimate "God within us" understanding of who we are as a people and how that really is the whole point.

Maybe that's why God has taken thousands of years to progressively reveal himself to people (even at the risk of being understood by many as being a different God now than in Old Testament times) -- because our whole lives will still be spent trying to get from the earlier versions of the understanding to the later versions anyway. It's not like we can get to the most intimate understanding just because it has been historically revealed. We're still mostly stuck in the early stages, and it takes us years of struggle to move past it to the more intimate reality.

That's my quest.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Bridge

"Prayer is the bridge between my unconscious and conscious life. Prayer connects my mind with my heart, my will with my passions, my brain with my belly. Prayer is the way to let the life-giving Spirit of God penetrate all the corners of my being. Prayer is the divine instrument of my wholeness, unity, and inner peace." -- Henri Nouwen, from The Only Necessary Thing

Those words ring true to me.

Seems like the idea of prayer in the evangelical world, especially here in Middle America, often stays in the conscious level and doesn't act as the bridge for which it is intended.

Prayer has become, in this culture surrounding me, a sprinkle to go over a meal or to open a ceremony or to ease the panic when someone is sick.

Its power, though, comes when it acts as the bridge which Nouwen describes.

Here's to many meaningful crossings.