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Showing posts from February, 2011

"The Samurai" by Shusaku Endo

I broke out of my habit of reading only literature that was originally written in English to read something translated from Japanese. Shusaku Endo was a modern Christian author who has been called "a Japanese Graham Greene" for his deep explorations of Catholicism. The epithet is unfair to both authors, since the only things they had in common were their religion, their willingness to ask painful questions, and their consummate skill as novelists. Their styles and perspectives are completely different.
In other words, I read this book with as much enjoyment as I did any of Graham Greene's stories. Endo's art as a novelist shines through translation, since his structural balance and precision with symbols transcends particular words. The emotion contained in this story is very deep yet restrained, making it feel characteristically Asian.
Endo's Christ is a man of suffering who can identify with the poor in spirit, and in The Samurai, suffering is the gateway by whic…

Waiting Together

"I wish I had known. I wish I could have just sat with you," commented a friend on a previous post in which I described a time of great darkness in my life.

She expressed what Henri Nouwen describes as key to our spiritual lives: waiting together. Nouwen recounts that after being visited by Gabriel, Mary visited Elizabeth, who also was waiting on a promise from God. The two women spoke God's words to each other and together experienced joy and awe at what God was doing in each of them. Nouwen says:
By being together these two women created space for each other to wait. They affirmed for each other that something was happening that was worth waiting for. . . . Christian community is where we keep the flame of hope alive among us and take it seriously so that it can grow and become stronger in us.Does your Christian community allow space for your fears and questions? Does it listen quietly, intently, for God's voice spoken into your life? Does it accept the existence of …

Active Waiting

My last entry about Nouwen's essay said that it's okay not to be some kind of spiritual hero while you wait for something. But I do believe there is a practice of waiting - things you can do to draw out the meaning and purpose of your particular situation. Here is what Nouwen says about this:
If we wait in the conviction that a seed has been planted and that something has already begun, it changes the way we wait. Active waiting implies being fully present to the moment with the conviction that something is happening where we are and that we want to be present to it. A waiting person is someone who is present to the moment, believing that this moment is the moment.

Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Simeon, and Anna were present to the moment. That is why they could hear the angel. They were alert, attentive to the voice that spoke to them and said, "Don't be afraid. Something is happening to you. Pay attention."I try to be present to the moment by thinking in terms of th…

"'If people can live all alone,

why do cries of grief fill every corner of the world? You have travelled through many countries. You have crossed the ocean and circled the globe. Surely all along the way you must have seen that those who lament and those who weep are seeking after something.'
"What he said was true. In every land, every village, and every home they visited, the samurai had seen an image of that ugly, emaciated man, his head bowed and both his arms extended.
"'Those who weep seek someone to weep with them. Those who grieve yearn for someone to lend an ear to their lamentations. No matter how much the world changes, those who weep and those who lament will always seek Him. That is His purpose in living.'"
~ The Samurai, Shusaku Endo, ch. 9

When You Don't Know What You're Waiting For

Those who were waiting [Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Simeon, and Anna] had each received a promise that gave them courage and allowed them to wait. They received something that was at work in them, a seed that had started to grow.What if you don't have a promise? Nothing's happening and nothing's changing, and you're just hanging on, barely holding on and perilously close to letting go.
I have been there, so I don't write this flippantly. I have waited so long, such an agonizingly long time, for things I wasn't sure I would ever receive. In the summer of 2009, just before I was diagnosed with Lyme disease, I gave up hope that I would ever be healed from chronic illness. I had waited so long that my soul was emaciated with it.
I wasn't waiting on a promise, like the people Nouwen mentions in the passage above. I had no idea what was in store for me. I couldn't count on something good happening. In a way, my waiting wasn't waiting at all - it was a day i…

Fear

Nouwen rightly identifies fear as a main reason why we don't want to wait. "As fearful people we have a hard time waiting, because fear urges us to get away from where we are. If we find that we cannot flee, we may fight instead. We are aware of the many destructive acts that arise from our fear that something harmful will be done to us."
Take my mid-afternoon slump at work, when I want to bolt across the country. What fears am I fleeing? I am afraid of a meaningless existence, a life in which no adventure happens. I am afraid of never getting married. I am afraid the difficult things in my life will never improve. And these are not small fears. To fear meaninglessness is to recognize that as a human I was made for splendor, and to wonder if the God who made me this way will also satisfy this need, which is the same as wondering if He is good.
I may not be aware, as I sit there in my cubicle, that my agitation results from an uneasiness about God. But in my restlessness, I…