This chapter invited the group to consider discernment through people we meet. Do we hear God speaking to us through people we meet in our daily lives? I think this is a good question and draws me into being more aware of how often God may be speaking to me and maybe through unexpected people I meet in my day.
Nouwen wrote of when he met Mother Teresa and how she listened to his elaborate explanation of trials and complications asking her advise and she responded "from above" pointing him to the divine presence. A response "from below" may have helped him understand his problems and distractions more but what remained was the call to live closer to the heart of God. The spiritual life is interested in living in the presence of God and considers this the greater or primary call. The gift of discernment is to have the ability to hear and see from God's perspective. From that point of view you may have the gift to offer others like the experience with Mother Teresa offered him.
The rest of this chapter described a handful of people that Nouwen had been impacted by and what he learned by hearing important words from them. The most striking thing that I want to highlight from this section was that Nouwen recognized through a challenged relationship that he had been trying to meet his needs from God through his friend. His friend could not provide what was sought because the friend was not God. The relationship was strained because of this and eventually broke because of the dependency that developed. The realization was that Nouwen needed to forgive his friend for not being God. Then he could also start healing and reconcile the relationship to start again accepting the gifts of the relationship without imposing impossible demands that could not be met by another human being.
I wondered how often we do seek to fulfill impossible needs in a relationship. It seemed insightful and I am still pondering that phrase of forgiving someone for not being God. Also, forgiving ourselves for projecting that on someone. We have limited abilities to provide for each other but God is where we find our security and stability no matter what happens. The healing for Nouwen began as he was reminded to claim his "belovedness" in God's eyes. For me I see here the connection to Baptism as a time and event that happens and we can hold on to that God claims us a beloved children. As I have spent more time recently with our young adults preparing for Confirmation I have been gladdened to hear their expressions of faith and look forward to celebrating with them as they affirm God's claim in when they were baptized. May it be a day of celebration and peace knowing God is faithful.