Reflections from the Genesee Diary

Chris reflects on how prayer and solitude helps us live as the unique individuals God created us to be.

For the past few nights, I have been really grateful for The Genesee Diary: Report from a Trappist Monastery by Henri Nouwen. This book has been a lovely reflection-companion for my daily night prayer. Nouwen’s writings (from my experience, that is) have always been so hearfelt and brutually honest, and it is precisely in his disarming honesty that one experiences the vulnerability and authenticity of his personality.

I began reading Nouwen approximately five years ago and I remembered feeling how his words touched and penetrated the depths of my soul. Often I recalled how he gave a voice to some of the most challenging and inarticulate sentiments that I was having towards myself, my loved ones, ministry members and the church in general.  The manner in which he introspects, reflects and ponders over issues in his life, yet simultaneously lifts and surrenders these same burdens to The Lord, is beautiful and admirable. I am able to relate to his emotional responses and thought processes. I am also grateful for how he has allowed his life to be a very powerful instrument of God.

Anyway, I like to record down and share with you an excerpt from The Genessee Diary, one that I have been pondering about for a while:

Walking through one of the buildings where I hadn’t been before, I came across a reproduction of Hazard Durfee’s beautiful flute player with the text by Henry David Thoreau: “Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

Indeed, how often in the past have I tried (and at times, failed terribly and even miserably) to fit in, to keep up with societal expectations, others’ expectations of me and my warped (and at times, horribly unrealistic) expectations of myself. Some of these expectations almost seem to make me less of a human and more of a machine. Such expectations eventually leave me feeling so internally torn apart, so inwardly angsty, so futilely constricted. Worse still, I have even projected such negativity onto the ones who love me the most in my life.

How very often in the past have I used so much energy and willpower to just force-fit a step — my step — because everyone else was dancing a certain way towards life. How often have I attempted to conform when every fibre of my being was retaliating and protesting against this unhealthy conformity. This quote, then, resembles a homily I heard quite a while ago that said something along the lines of “why try so hard to fit in when you’ve been called to be set apart right from the start?”

In no way am I condoning sloth, promoting unconformity or justifying how people should necessary try to be different for the sake of being different. No.

Rather, I believe that the essence of this quote stems from a place of peace, a sphere of quiet confidence in recognising that we are all special creations of The Lord and hence, dance to a certain unique rhythm of life. Doesn’t that instill in us a sense of freedom? Indeed, is it not immensely liberating to recognize (and eventually praise God for) our limitations – that there are just some drumbeats in life that we’re not called to marched to, that try as we might, we just fail to keep up with these drumbeats? Indeed, the music which we are called to truly listen can (and should) be the gentle promptings of the Holy Spirit, the quiet voice of God. And God does speaks to all of us in different ways through different forms and genres (of music, haha).

In this sense, this beautiful yet poignant quote reminds us of the importance of being still, internally still, to listen (and thereafter step about and dance) to the music of The Lord, to the melody of His unconditional love for us.

© 2018 Christ Centered Conversations/Christopher Chok

Author: christcenteredconversations

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