Feb 26th to Mar 4th: First Week of Lent – The First Thirteen Imperatives

Reading: The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom
“Work Around Your Abyss” to “Bring Your Body Home” (pages 3 to 20)

Do not read too many of these spiritual imperatives at once!
They were written over a long period of time and
need to be read that way too. (p. xxi)

It was so wonderful to read all your introductions last week – again, a very warm welcome to each of you!  This is the largest group that has gathered for these discussions since 2015. I think that speaks to the importance and timeliness of The Inner Voice of Love. It is book for difficult times. We are grateful for your presence, your vulnerability, and your honest and open sharing. You have joined a loving and supportive community–as is already evident by the comments exchanged among participants. We are excited to begin our first full week of exploring Henri’s secret and deeply personal journal.

As a number of you noted when introducing yourself, Henri’s words often speak directly a reader’s heart. That has certainly been the case for me. In this book, Henri shares his most personal thoughts, feelings, and emotions in a time of great anguish. Writing these spiritual imperatives was an important part of Henri’s healing process that, ultimately, contributed to his emotional and spiritual growth, and led to the most fruitful time of Henri’s ministry and his most popular and acclaimed books.

Although Henri wrote these spiritual imperatives when he was in crisis, the challenges and conditions he identifies and the influence they may have on a person’s life affects everyone, not just those in difficult circumstances. We all face similar conditions and situations during our journey through life and one or more of Henri’s imperatives may speak directly to our hearts—and through the imperatives we may gain a new perspective or insight that can guide us along the way. Sharing those perspectives and insights, to the extent you are comfortable, with the community of Nouwen readers gathered together this Lent may help us to support each other as we learn to live as God’s beloved children.

Veterans of previous Nouwen book discussions may recall that I would often select excerpts from the text and pose questions to prompt your reflections. That approach doesn’t work for this book. Henri’s spiritual imperatives are largely standalone reflections that may or may not apply to a particular reader on their journey. I found that four or five of the first thirteen imperatives were directly relevant to me. Therefore, rather than me posing questions, you are asked to reflect on the imperatives and share whatever issues come up or insights you gain in the readings. This group is here to listen, encourage and support each other as we discover the meaning of Henri’s spiritual imperatives in our individual lives.

Below is a process you might consider following to help you explore the readings and share your journey with the group. (With thanks to former facilitator Brynn Lawrence.)

  1. Briefly look over the thirteen imperatives assigned to this week (pages 3 through 20), either by simply reading the title or by lightly skimming the text.  Don’t feel you need to closely read them all.  Remember Henri’s advice on p xxi…too much salt can spoil a meal!
  2. Select a few (perhaps 3 or 4) imperatives that stand out to you, and read them thoroughly, perhaps several times.
  3. Consider:
    1. The thought or concept that stands out to you
    2. How does it relates to your personal experience?  Look at your experience with the benefit of Henri’s insight.  Does that help you to see things differently or to know yourself better?
    3. What is God speaking to your heart in this imperative? Has God touched your heart in other ways about this thought or concept (e.g., Scripture, spiritual reading, through another person)?
    4. How you will respond?  Carefully (prayerfully) consider how your heart responds to the insights gained during your reflection. Are there small steps you can take to incorporate these insights and to move toward spiritual freedom in your life?  Perhaps you would like to write your own Spiritual Imperative.
    5. Pray!
  4. Please share with the group to the extent you are comfortable. You might consider sharing on a single imperative per comment. If you have a second or third imperative that was meaningful to you, submit separate comments for each.

Of course, the above is only a suggestion. We are interested in learning whatever touched your heart during the reading. You are also welcome to comment on the sharing of others. We also welcome those that are reading along without posting; you are an important part of our Lenten community too.

Very much looking forward to hearing from each of you!

Peace and all good.