Friday, March 14, 2014

QOTM...*: Nouwen on Nature

(*Quote of the Month)

Henri Nouwen
It is impressive to see how prayer opens one’s eyes to nature. Prayer makes a person contemplative and attentive. In place of manipulating, the one who prays stands receptive before the world. He no longer grabs but caresses, he no longer bites but kisses, he no longer examines but admires. To this person, nature can show itself completely renewed. Instead of an obstacle, it becomes a way; instead of an invulnerable shield, it becomes a veil which gives a preview of unknown horizons.
~~ Henri Nouwen                 

It surprised me when I realized I had not yet used a quote of Henri Nouwen for my QOTM. One of my life-long favorite authors, I guess I also realize that I have not very often run across anything by him on the subject, at least not since I began collecting these kinds of quotes. Don’t get me started on my favorite Nouwen books, though, as I probably own more by him than any other single author, even heard him speak a couple times years ago, one of the most intensely focused speakers I have ever heard.

Case in point: at a Covenant pastors’ Midwinter Conference years ago, with probably 7-800 in attendance at that time, he actually asked if the back doors could be locked while he spoke, as the constant late-comings and bathroom-goings typical with a crowd that size were causing him to struggle with focus. I’d never heard THAT from a speaker before, but wow, did he deliver it! Sure made people get there on time the next night!

It is impressive to see
how prayer opens one’s
eyes to nature…

That is an indication of the laser focus the man had, the single-minded attention he gave to things. Attentive is the word he uses in the quote. The contemplative or prayerful Christian is attentive. In fact, active or contemplative, serious Christians are attentive. And those of us who find nature an important spiritual pathway just happen to be attentive to certain natural things that most people are not, especially in our frenetic, western, non-agrarian culture; for us, nature becomes a way, a veil previewing paradise.

Thomas Merton
Interestingly, the quote is actually from a book Nouwen wrote on the work of another famous monk, Thomas Merton, the title of which is Thomas Merton: Contemplative Critic, one I have not read. But Merton was another of those whose natural, spiritual focus was sharp.

How attentive are you as a follower of Christ? And what is your attention focused upon? I am not at all suggesting it has to be the natural world, but where is our focus, and Who is our Focal Point? I think the old 1611 King James English said it this way, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

That is to say, I guess we are what we give our attention to. Thanks for the reminder, Henri. And peace to his memory.

~~RGM, March 14, 2014

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