One of the most meaningful little books I have come across this past year is a daily devotional entitled, "Dare to Journey with Henri Nouwen" by Charles Ringma. Every day's reflection expounds on one of Henri Nouwen's quotes. While I am still working my way through the devotional, I have yet to read a single reflection that didn't speak directly to my life.
The following words from Ringma's devotional spoke to where I find myself spiritually after fifty years...
One of our persistent difficulties is that while we want help, we do not want to change. We are quite willing to go to God to ask for strength, but not so willing to ask for redirection. We are happy to be encouraged, but not to be converted.The above thought has gotten me to reflect about the multiple agendas I continue to try and control (see Martha post below). Most of my agendas are pretty commendable (or at least I think so), and seem to be the kinds of things expected of a missionary. Yet I am increasingly feeling controlled and bound by these compulsions and agendas and becoming dissatisfied with life in general. Most of this disatisfaction comes from not being able to direct the outcomes of these agendas nor control my own compulstions.
In doing this we are making the fatal assumption that we are okay in what we are doing and in our priorities; all we lack is adequate resources. And so we turn to God in prayer asking for more grace, more of His Spirit, and more of His power. Even in our search for solitutde and inner peace, we are frequently motivated by the ideas that we are simply looking to find greater inner energies in order to carry on with our own agendas...
[Prayer and solitude] is not the place where we recharge our spiritual batteries and then continue to live as we have lived before. It is not the place where we catch our breath in order to madly reenter the race. It is not the place where we simply find some quietness before we plunge into the world with its babble of voices.
The place of solitude is where we are changed. It is the place where we abandon some of our agendas, where we acknowledge our complusions, where we discover new directions and where, more importantly, we find a new self.
Hence, the need to seriously consider abandoning some of these agendas, acknowledge the unrealistic compulsions, and discover the new directions God has for me at this point in my life.