“[T]he real ‘work’ of prayer is to become silent and listen to the voice that says good things about me. To gently push aside and silence the many voices that question my goodness and to trust that I will hear the voice of blessing– that demands real effort” (Henri J.M. Nouwen, Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World).
Maybe that’s why it’s so difficult for most of us to be still and silent for long. Perhaps the enemy knows that once we start listening to the voice of our Abba, and believing what He says about us, we will no longer be swayed by any temptation from the other side.
Sure, we have lots of voices telling us we’re no good, that we’re failures who are past all hope. We have other voices telling us that we’re as good as how well we perform and jump through hoops and wear the right labels and drive the right cars and so on and so forth.
Still, the voice that trumps all those other voices says that you are already enough because Abba made you. You are not your mistakes or your shortcomings or your weaknesses. You are your Abba’s beloved, and He is very fond of you.
“At issue here is the question: ‘To whom do I belong? God or to the world?’ Many of my daily preoccupations suggest that I belong more to the world than to God. A little criticism makes me angry, and a little rejection makes me depressed. A little praise raises my spirits, and a little success excites me. It takes very little to raise me up or thrust me down. Often I am like a small boat on the ocean, completely at the mercy of its waves. All the time and energy I spend in keeping some kind of balance and preventing myself from being tipped over and drowning shows that my life is mostly a struggle for survival: not a holy struggle, but an anxious struggle resulting from the mistaken idea that it is the world that defines me.
As long as I keep running about asking: ‘Do you love me? Do you really love me?’ I give all power to the voices of the world and put myself in bondage because the world is filled with ‘ifs.’ The world says: ‘Yes, I love you if you are good-looking, intelligent, and wealthy. I love you if you have a good education, a good job, and good connections. I love you if you produce much, sell much, and buy much.’ There are endless ‘ifs’ hidden in the world’s love. These ‘ifs’ enslave me, since it is impossible to respond adequately to all of them. The world’s love is and always will be conditional. As long as I keep looking for my true self in the world of conditional love, I will remain ‘hooked’ to the world-trying, failing,and trying again. It is a world that fosters addictions because what it offers cannot satisfy the deepest craving of my heart” (Henri J.M. Nouwen).