the way of the heart
I started reading this book this weekend...Henri Nouwen's The Way of the Heart. I bought it for my husband a few years back, before we really had begun to understand and grapple with the mystic nature of spiritual disciplines and the life of Christ indwelling us by His Spirit. Which is to say: I bought it before it made any sense to us whatsoever.
The Christian mystics - people like Nouwen and even Brother Lawrence and Thomas Merton and the Desert Fathers - do nothing if not make conservative believers nervous. Let's just say I've had to reassure several Reformed brothers and sisters of my salvation. :D But more seriously, because mysticism, the word, is associated with new age spirituality or creepy psychic stuff, it's hard in some circles to discuss what being a Christian mystic really means. In doing some brief research, I found this blog and the author's "definition" really resonated with me:
"In the simplest sense, a mystic is someone who has a lived experience of Jesus in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. They have experienced Jesus, and through contemplative prayer and meditation, continue to encounter Jesus in such a way that they gain a new perceptive appreciation for the urgent immediacy of God in all things." - Ian Cron
He goes on to acknowledge that this is probably "one of several thousand definitions of this term" and continues a discussion on what he believes it means to be a Christian mystic. But for reals? This sounds a lot like letting Jesus live in me, through me, and as me. I've had what I would describe as mystic experiences wrought by the power of the Spirit of God. Some have been more profound than others and those usually came in seasons where my primary acts of personal worship were contemplative prayer and silence. But the daily reality of letting go, so that Christ's life would flow through me, this is my meditation, my solitude, my prayer.
I wrote a few weeks back on worship and how the rhythms of my worship are ever-changing, especially as a mother. I picked up this book for a few reasons - I want to develop an idea of what it means to employ those seemingly "mystic" spiritual disciplines in a season where solitude and silence are basically foreign ideas.
On a day when I hit the ground running with an energetic, curious little girl and a hard-working husband and the general busy-ness of managing a home and ministering the gospel...how am I to cram in the precious and necessary and important work of practicing the presence of God?
One of my all-time favorite words on this comes from Brother Lawrence in The Practice of the Presence of God:
So as I enter in to Nouwen's book, I am keeping Brother Lawrence's words at the forefront, my prayer in these days... 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, sweet holy Father. May the gift of your indwelling Life be the motivator in my decisions, your compelling love the force behind my words, and your life for others the reality of my relationships.
Looking forward to sharing reflections with you soon...