The Holy Spirit in My Bookshelf
Before I left for a week-long retreat with my friends to a ranch in Oklahoma, I randomly grabbed a Henri Nouwen book from Evan’s bookshelf. I slid it into my backpack with a fresh journal and favorite pen. The first morning, and every morning that week, the adults spread out in chairs on the front porch with stacks of books, drinking coffee, while the kids played on the tire swing and around the little pond. We interrupted one another often to read quotes aloud from our books, and the children interrupted with news about tadpoles, bees, and the yellow ranch kitten.
In the introduction of “The Inner Voice of Love,” Nouwen asks readers to take the book slowly and read only a couple pages per day. This alone was a change of pace for me. Sitting with something. Pondering it. Praying over it and journaling about it. I love slow mornings like this, but I haven’t cultivated the space for them in a long, long time. Ever since the pandemic started, I have felt distracted. I find myself holding my breath, scrolling for too long on my phone, and living life through updates.
As I sat with Nouwen’s words, which he wrote when he was in what he describes as “the most difficult period of [his] life,” I quickly realized why the Holy Spirit had prompted this book selection. My eyes have been tired. My hands have been tired. My heart has been tired. I feel the weight of all the rejections I have experienced in my life, both great and small, like one wound, crying out. Nouwen describes a similar experience, and the book is a collection of the sermons he preached to his own heart during this time.
Nouwen talks about how often our feelings of rejection are based on the weight we have placed on others to be what we need, or on ourselves to be what they need. Nouwen reminds us that community is a gift, but it is not God. When we are feeling tired, exposed, or rejected, Nouwen says that we must remind ourselves: “God loves me, and God’s love is enough.”
I tried this today, when I wondered if I was letting a friend down and didn’t see a way to fix it. “God loves me, and God’s love is enough,” I said, taking a deep breath, and exhaling with a little more peace. When that twinge of insecurity entered my heart, I said: “God loves me, and God’s love is enough.” When I wondered about the future with fear, I reminded myself: “God loves me, and God’s love is enough.” And, like laying brick upon brick, I used this reminder to rebuild a foundation in my heart. And I plan to continue this building project. You might need to as well. Remember: God loves you. And God’s love is enough.
Listen to this sketch