From Absurd to Obedient

Peace like a River in Colorado

I am on vacation this week, seeking rest and renewal.  I prepared this post before I left, but it contains my hope for this time away.

Wayne Muller, in his book Sabbath, writes about Henri Nouwen.

Henri Nouwn was a dear friend of mine, a brother, priest, mentor.   He was also a fiercely astute observer of our worried, overfilled lives.  Henri insisted that the noise of our lives made us deaf, unable to hear when we are called, or from which direction.  Henri said our lives have become absurd — because in the word absurd we find the Latin word surdus, which means deaf.  In our spiritual lives we need to listen to God who constantly speaks but whom we seldom hear in our hurried deafness.

On the other hand, Henri was fond of reminding me that the word obedient comes from the Latin word audire, which means “to listen.” Henri believed that a spiritual life was a pilgrimage from absurdity to obedience — from deafness to listening.  If we surrender fully into Sabbath time, we can slowly move from a life so filled with noisy worries that we are deaf to the gifts and blessings of our life, to a life in which we can listen to God, Jesus, all the Buddhas and saints and sages and messengers who seek to guide and teach us.

The world seduces us with an artificial urgency that requires us to respond without listening to what is most deeply true.  In Sabbath time, we cultivate a sense of eternity where we truly rest, and feel how all things can wait, and turn them gently in the hand until we feel their shape, and know the truth of them.

The theology of progress forces us to act before we are ready. We speak before we know what to say. We respond before we feel the truth of what we know.  In the process, we inadvertently create suffering, heaping imprecision upon inaccuracy, until we are all buried und a mountain of misperception.  But Sabbath says, Be still. Stop.  There is no rush to get to the end, because we are never finished.  Take time to rest, and eat, and drink, and be refreshed.  And in the gentle rhythm of that refreshment, listen to the sound the heart makes as it speaks the quiet truth of what is needed. (p.85)

Lord Jesus, teach me to listen.

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