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Interesting Quotes January 19, 2008

Posted by amybeth in Deep.

For the past little while I’ve been getting these Henri Nouwen quotes sent to me in my inbox. A few of them have stood out and got me thinking. I thought I’d share those with you.


“Often hell is portrayed as a place of punishment and heaven as a place of reward. But this concept easily leads us to think about God as either a policeman, who tries to catch us when we make a mistake and send us to prison when our mistakes become too big, or a Santa Claus, who counts up all our good deeds and puts a reward in our stocking at the end of the year.God, however, is neither a policeman nor a Santa Claus. God does not send us to heaven or hell depending on how often we obey or disobey. God is love and only love. In God there is no hatred, desire for revenge, or pleasure in seeing us punished. God wants to forgive, heal, restore, show us endless mercy, and see us come home. But just as the father of the prodigal son let his son make his own decision God gives us the freedom to move away from God’s love even at the risk of destroying ourselves. Hell is not God’s choice. It is ours.”

I thought this was interesting. So many people that hell and a good God are incompatible concepts. Have you ever tried to help someone who had been really hurt? No matter how much you offered, were patient, and simply loved them, they chose to remain miserable. Their misery was a consequence of their choices, but you couldn’t be blamed for that. In the very presence of love, we can choose hell. Its not a punishment put on us, but a consequence we choose for ourselves. I know this may not be theologically correct…but it struck me as an interesting way to look at things.


“There is a great difference between successfulness and fruitfulness. Success comes from strength, control, and respectability. A successful person has the energy to create something, to keep control over its development, and to make it available in large quantities. Success brings many rewards and often fame. Fruits, however, come from weakness and vulnerability. And fruits are unique. A child is the fruit conceived in vulnerability, community is the fruit born through shared brokenness, and intimacy is the fruit that grows through touching one another’s wounds. Let’s remind one another that what brings us true joy is not successfulness but fruitfulness.”

Its so often not about the result…the result can be the same. Its about the process…how we get there, whether in our own strength and wisdom or by doing it God’s way. This quote helped me see what it is that can drive me to pursue success instead of working for fruit – its a fear of being vulnerable.


“Patience is a hard discipline. It is not just waiting until something happens over which we have no control: the arrival of the bus, the end of the rain, the return of a friend, the resolution of a conflict. Patience is not a waiting passivity until someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. When we are impatient we try to get away from where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later and somewhere else. Let’s be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand.”

I would say this is one of my greatest personal struggles. I keep looking ahead and forget to live now, to savor now.


“Prayer is the bridge between our conscious and unconscious lives. Often there is a large abyss between our thoughts, words, and actions, and the many images that emerge in our daydreams and night dreams. To pray is to connect these two sides of our lives by going to the place where God dwells. Prayer is “soul work” because our souls are those sacred centers where all is one and where God is with us in the most intimate way.Thus, we must pray without ceasing so that we can become truly whole and holy.”I just thought this was a really interesting way to view prayer. I can definitely see how prayer can be portrayed this way…I can be all anxious and thinking about decisions and then when I take time to pray, the truths of God’s Word that I’ve stored in my heart come to the surface and connect with the worries of my day bringing God’s kingdom to reign in the reality of my daily life.


“All human beings are alone. No other person will completely feel like we do, think like we do, act like we do. Each of us is unique, and our aloneness is the other side of our uniqueness. The question is whether we let our aloneness become loneliness or whether we allow it to lead us into solitude. Loneliness is painful; solitude is peaceful. Loneliness makes us cling to others in desperation; solitude allows us to respect others in their uniqueness and create community.Letting our aloneness grow into solitude and not into loneliness is a lifelong struggle. It requires conscious choices about whom to be with, what to study, how to pray, and when to ask for counsel. But wise choices will help us to find the solitude where our hearts can grow in love.When we feel lonely we keep looking for a person or persons who can take our loneliness away. Our lonely hearts cry out, “Please hold me, touch me, speak to me, pay attention to me.” But soon we discover that the person we expect to take our loneliness away cannot give us what we ask for. Often that person feels oppressed by our demands and runs away, leaving us in despair. As long as we approach another person from our loneliness, no mature human relationship can develop. Clinging to one another in loneliness is suffocating and eventually becomes destructive. For love to be possible we need the courage to create space between us and to trust that this space allows us to dance together.”

Ouch. This is another area of struggle for me. I find it hard to both acknowledge that we as humans are built for relationship and thus accept my desire for companionship without becoming cynical and self-isolating while at the same time not giving into the loneliness that would drive me to put pressure on others to meet my needs. Its a tough balance.



1. patti - January 29, 2008

“…and to trust that this space allows us to dance together.”

I like that line.

I’m a Henri Nouwen fan too.

2. Edward - June 5, 2008

….Yes indeed Patti, that last line seems to wrap up the entire message…. we all want in the best way possible “…..dance together” with someone at many moments in our lives!

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