Pure Action – Reaching Out Blog #11

“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.”

Romans 8:11

“[I]T seems of great importance to know with an experiential knowledge the difference between an action that is triggered by a change in the surrounding scene and an action that has ripened in our hearts through careful listening to the world in which we live. . . . In solitude we can pay careful attention to the world and search for an honest response.”

I did it again today.  I discovered myself in a situation where I was annoyed and I spoke words that were very judgmental.  I don’t often do that to a person’s face but if they can’t hear me I feel free to say whatever.  Of course, what difference does it make?  I suppose the person I’m demeaning won’t hear what I said and they will go away no different than they were before they annoyed me.  But the real question should be, “Will I go away any different?”  I don’t want to be that person.  I don’t want to be a judgmental person who is constantly focused on the faults of others without understanding them or where they come from.

I think some people are naturally easy going and don’t gripe so much when the traffic slows down around them or some driver does some bone-headed maneuver or a person gets upset and treats them unfairly.  Some people are very forgiving and easily move on after a negative event.  I’m not that person but I am trying to be.  I think it’s a godly characteristic worth striving for.  I don’t want to be the doormat of the world and I don’t think that’s what God is calling for.  Even an easy-going and forgiving sort of person can know when it’s time to get riled up and call for change.

The big question is this, “How do I become the person God wants me to be?”  How do I become a person who is no longer just reactionary in nature but rather a person who acts carefully and lovingly out of a heart that has soaked in solitude with its Creator?

Nouwen is touching on one of those subjects I’d rather he just leave alone.  Not because he’s wrong but because he’s completely right and I don’t want to change.  Well, that’s not true, I do want to change but that desire is at the deepest levels of me where God speaks and changes me.  On my more sinful surface I find that this kind of change is difficult and undesirable.  My anger empowers me.  It makes me feel in command.  It gives me the sense that I’m better than whatever just happened to me.  It allows me to win in a competition that I can’t lose – unless I take the time to listen to God first.  Therein lays the rub.

So often we go through life merely responding to the events that occur.  We are reactionary.  Our actions and responses are not carefully thought out, rather they are hasty and often wrong on some or all levels.  I picture the world, sometimes, as a pinball game where the balls are violently bouncing around until no one is able to keep them in play anymore.  But is that what God calls us to?  Is that the life we must live?  Is there another choice?

Nouwen says there is another choice.  We could learn how to live from solitude of heart.  We can be at peace deep down inside so that we can respond to the world in peace.  We can be changed deep inside our hearts so that we can act with new instincts when the time comes.  In this way, heart-solitude is the vehicle that drives us to pure actions, actions based on purity of intention rather than a sinful and emotionally-driven response based on how the world thinks, acts and reacts.

I’ve got a lot of work to do and I’m willing to guess that you do to.

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2 thoughts on “Pure Action – Reaching Out Blog #11

  1. The idea, or truth, of “heart solitude” is not something I think we can go to easily or, often, willingly. In fact, I would suspect that most of us who are not passive by nature likely fight off the urge to be that much at peace as described here. This despite the fact we absolutely know the best way to peace is through the internal peace you speak of. Way too difficult for many, me included, but worth striving for.

  2. You’re right. It’s hard to attain and good to strive for. My nature gets in the way all the time. Nouwen’s idea of heart solitude helps, though. He looks to develop a solitude that can be practiced in the midst of a crowd – a heart that focuses on the Lord at all times. I think it takes time away from the crowds to develop the best but Nouwen is really looking for practicality here. He wants us to gradually shift from emotional reaction to an event to godly reaction that comes from a heart that is already prepared to take on anything that comes it’s way. This only happens when the heart is a sea of calm born from solitude that helps us tap into God’s reaction through us. Yeah, deep stuff but not as far out of reach as you might think.

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