Week One: Head for the Hills
Henrí Nouwen distills the teachings of the desert fathers and mothers into a brief but incredibly useful book on silence, solitude, and prayer called The Way of the Heart. Grounded in the experience of ministry, Nouwen’s insights are refreshingly accessible and practical.
Readers need not be involved in ministry. If anything, ministers face heightened or exacerbated situations that call all the more for the wisdom in this slender book. This week we’re looking at why we need to head for the hills.
“The words flee, be silent and pray summarize the spirituality of the desert. They indicate the three ways of preventing the world from shaping us in its image and are thus the three ways to life in the Spirit.”
“Our calendars are filled with appointments, our days and weeks filled with engagements, and our years filled with plans and projects. There is seldom a period in which we do not know what to do, and we move through life in such a distracted way that we do not even take the time and rest to wonder if any of the things we think, say, or do are worth thinking, saying or doing.”
“Solitude is the furnace of transformation. Without solitude we remain victims of our society and continue to be entangled in the illusions of the false self. Jesus himself entered into this furnace. There he was tempted with the three compulsions of the world: to be relevant (‘turn stones into loaves’), to be spectacular (‘throw yourself down’), and to be powerful (‘I will give you all these kingdoms’). There he affirmed God as the only source of his identity (‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve him alone’). Solitude is the place of the great struggle and the great encounter – the struggle against the compulsions of the false self, and the encounter with the loving God who offers himself as the substance of the new self.”