how to be an authentic translator of the Gospel
So I began reading Nouwen last week. And then re-reading. It's the kind of book that requires some attentiveness, some interaction. And this is what I'm hearing so far... Remember the Brother Lawrence prayer from my first post? "Grant me the grace to continue in thy presence; and to this end do thou prosper me with thy assistance, receive all my works, and possess all my affections..." This is proving to be an excellent filter for what I'm reading through in Nouwen's first section, on solitude. Though clearly written for vocational ministers and pastors, I'm finding that much of the content is easy to see through the eyes of wife and mother. After all, what is an excellent wife if not a confidante, encourager, and minister to her husband's needs? And what is a mother if not teacher, discipler, and shepherd?
I'm sure you can say the same: my days are full. Usually they are full and rich, but often they are full and busy. There are chores and routines and appointments and errands, people to see, floors to clean, diapers to change, loading up the car, unloading the car, and in between, all the little moments of mothering that are meant to be a training and nurturing of the little woman in our home. ABC songs, building towers, drawing and playing games. The days just fill up. And often it feels like, even in all the busyness, nothing gets done. Evidently this is true of everyone, no matter the calling or vocation.
Nouwen remarks on the general busyness of our days..."we are busy people just like other busy people, rewarded with the rewards which are rewarded to busy people!" Which is to say, we do All The Things and people may be impressed with our productivity, but really there is not a great reward to busyness. The Desert Fathers spoke of busyness as "moral laziness". James Houston discusses this in his book "The Transforming Friendship: A Guide to Prayer". We do for the sake of doing, for the sake of hearing "Oh, how impressive you are with all your hard work!", for often no other reason than we don't know WHAT to do if we slow down. Houston writes, "We become 'outward' people, obsessed with how we appear, rather than 'inward' people, reflecting on the meaning of our lives".
Nouwen's poignant observation on all the doing and all the busyness stopped me short: "There is seldom a period in which we do not know what to do and we move through life in such a distracted way that we do not even take the time and rest to wonder if any of the things we think, say, or do are worth thinking, saying, or doing....we live with [our tasks and chores] as if they were authentic translations of the Gospel of our Lord."
So, I must sit still on this for a moment.
Are my daily words and tasks and decisions truly authentic translations of the Gospel? The words I speak to my husband and my attitude towards him - are they full of love and respect and a genuine selflessness? The tone in which I speak to the Happy Baby and my interactions with her...are they tender and gracious? Do I exhibit patience? And my family and friends...do I show grace through my conversations and meetings with them? Do I gauge my words and actions to ensure they are authentic translations of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
I hardly know how to begin evaluating these things, but it seems such an excellent place to start. I can only know how I am doing if I understand what is an authentic translation of the Gospel. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the good news of salvation, that I am accepted by God at infinite cost to Jesus the Son. The Gospel is, as Tim Keller wrote, in part the realization that "I am more sinful and flawed than I ever dared believe", and yet at the same time "I am more accepted and loved than I ever dared hope". If the good news is that I am loved and accepted, than any "authentic translation" of that to those nearest to me must reflect a great love and tender acceptance.
If I want to be an authentic translator of the Gospel in my home, then my words will speak life (because the Life-giver indwells me), my attitudes will be rooted in selflessness (because Jesus Christ made Himself low), my actions will be tender and patient (because the life of the Patient One is mine). Authentic translations of the Gospel in our families eliminate much of the "noise" - the anger and frustration, the bickering and impatience, the constant go-go-go attitude of getting things done. It enables us to create room in our hearts to begin pursuing solitude with the Father. This is where I'm headed next - Nouwen's thoughts on solitude as "the furnace of transformation".
But this is where I am starting this week. I'm asking God to make me aware of any thing I say or do that is not an accurate reflection of the Gospel, so that we can bring the busyness down a notch or two. So we can create space for what He desires in our homes and on our calendars. Especially as all the holiday frenzy approaches, this seems to me a valuable endeavor. On a quest to know "the way of the heart" through prayer, wisdom, silence, much of the noise may be quieted if I am weighing my actions against the Gospel. If I am considering what is of worth coming out of my mouth, what is of worth putting on my calendar, what is of worth as I spend time with family and friends.
What about you and your home? What are some ways you hear the Father's voice prompting you to be an authentic translation of the Gospel to those you love?