My favorite tool right now is a wrench like the one in the photo posted above – and there’s a reason for that.
For the past three weeks the battery cables on my truck have been coming loose at various intervals. Whenever that happens, I have to get out a wrench (along with some pliers) and tighten the cables so that there will be an uninterrupted connection between the cables, the battery, and all the things the battery powers. When this connection is loose, my radio doesn’t work; and when it’s really loose, my truck won’t start.
So, the wrench has become my favorite tool for keeping the connection that powers my truck intact so that everything works the way it’s supposed to work.
This got me thinking about my connection with God and the “tools” I use to keep that connection intact.
Renowned theologian and author Henri Nouwen wrote about this connection in his book The Way of the Heart. There, Nouwen identifies three spiritual practices (“tools”) that connect us to God in ways that help us live as “vital witnesses of Christ.” Below is a listing of these habits with some comments by Nouwen.
- “Solitude is the furnace of transformation. Without solitude we remain victims of our society and continue to be entangled in the illusions of the false self…Solitude is the place of the great struggle and the great encounter – the struggle against the compulsions of the false self, and the encounter with the loving God who offers himself as the substance of the new self.”
- “Compassion is the fruit of solitude and the basis of all ministry.”
- “When we are filled with God’s merciful presence, we can do nothing other than minister because our whole being witness to the light that has come into the darkness.”
- “Thus in and through solitude we do not move away from people. On the contrary, we move closer to them through compassionate ministry.”
- “Silence completes and intensifies solitude.”
- “Our first and foremost task is faithfully to care for the inward fire so that when it is really needed it can offer warmth and light to lost travelers…and silence guards the fire within.”
- “God speaks in silence…Hence, the question that must guide all organizing activity in a parish is not how to keep people busy, but how to keep them from being so busy that they can no longer hear the voice of God who speaks in silence.”
- “Solitude and silence are for prayer.”
- “Just as a psychologist studies a case and seeks to gain insight by trying to find coherence in all the available data, so someone who prays well should come to understand God better by thinking deeply about all that is known about him.”
- “Real prayer comes from the heart.”
- “The prayer of the heart is the prayer of truth. It unmasks the many illusions about ourselves and about God and leads us into the true relationship of the sinner to the merciful God.”
Nouwen brought all these thoughts together in this summary: “Solitude shows us the way to let our behavior be shaped not by the compulsions of the world but by our new mind, the mind of Christ. Silence prevents us from being suffocated by our wordy world and teaches us to speak the Word of God. Finally, unceasing prayer gives solitude and silence their real meaning. In unceasing prayer, we descend with the mind into the heart. Thus we enter through our heart into the heart of God, who embraces all of history with his eternally creative and recreative love.”
The result of using these three tools to connect with God on a consistent basis will be this, according to Nouwen: “When we have been remodeled into living witnesses of Christ through solitude, silence, and prayer, we will no longer have to worry about whether we are saying the right thing or making the right gesture, because then Christ will make his presence known even when we are not aware of it.”
So, what’s your favorite tool for connecting with God?