Book Reflection on The Way of the Heart

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Book Reflection on The Way of the Heart

Kenna Bynum

Kenna Bynum

Wife, Mother, Spiritual Director, Soul Care Facilitator, Writer, Speaker, Teacher

The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen is a book that poses the issue of our current society’s bent toward domination and manipulation, particularly in the area of spirituality and religion, as well as, the issue of those in ministry to continue in their desire to serve, find nurture and strength and have their own spiritual thirst and hunger met, in order to serve and guide others. He eloquently relates the currents status of community and culture to that of earlier periods that resulted in the movement of the early church’s Abbas and Ammas, the Desert Fathers and Mothers. Nouwen draws from the wisdom and practice of the early Desert Fathers and Mothers and explains, in a conversational tone, the critical nature of the disciplines of solitude, silence and prayer have to a growing, transformational, God-led, spiritual life and how they are all tied together. Henri Nouwen’s language is incredibly easy to read and I almost felt like I was being given personal guidance from a mentor who wrote specifically to me. I never wanted to stop reading. It was like wanting to see what the next page says in a loved ones letter but I resisted, because what he had to tell was of such weight and required me to to take it in and ponder. 

The part on the wordiness of the world was of particular interest to me. It was relieving and conflicting at the same time. On one hand, I could hear the voice of my mother saying “the less you say, the less trouble you have.” and “there’s never any reason to waste words on a mad person.” as opposed to my husband who says “not talking doesn’t make you any better than me”.  In both instances I see how I have been formed by strong influences in my life and have used both speaking and not speaking in unhealthy ways. Because we had a manic depressive grandmother who lived with us for several years, I am fully aware of the value of not wasting words on a crazy person or rather, when they’re in a crazy phase. There were also thoughts like, “I should have a voice and be heard” and ‘I won’t be a doormat so I will yell and fight back” and, in my case, I’ve definitely dealt with the consequences of my flapping tongue and vicious words. In contrast, I’ve also seen the value of healthy communication to aid in the process of forgiveness and healing. Right now something different about words is being revealed. I loved the quote of Abba Poemen “A man may seem to be silent, but if his heart is condemning others, he is babbling ceaselessly. But there may be another who talks from morning to night and yet he is truly silent.” This quote just put it right back to the issue of the heart. Silence IS a quality of the heart. I also now understand that being silent in difficult situations or conversations can actually give room for the Holy Spirit to move and that my words sometimes can keep me from being aware of the blessing that is occurring through the work of God. God’s blessing is still happening. He is still working. If I stop talking, he’ll reveal himself through my active trust. Sometimes “stopping” is an action of my faith. My prayer now is for a quiet and restful heart not necessarily the right thing to say or the right words.

The prayer chapter was also convicting. The viewpoint of prayer where one “thinks” about God, which  makes him an object of intellectual thinking, was a complete eye opener for me. I realize that this is a contributing factor for times I’ve been stunted in my prayer life. I’ve recently noticed how my journaling has shifted and changed. My purpose isn’t just so I can have a structure of speaking to God in conversation but rather a loose document to remember and remind myself of the victories and workings of God in my life. It’s so much more meaningful rather than just being my own personal venting space where I have a weird expectation that God is listening to my list of complaints or waiting to hear my list of gratitude. God doesn’t need all my words (not that he won’t take ‘em). My husband doesn’t need all my words. My daughter doesn’t need all my words. My friends don’t need all my words. They simply need my heart, time, love, prayer, space and a desire to listen. Through the grace and mercy of Jesus, I trust he will continue to transform me so that these realizations and understandings would be an outflowing of me to others.

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