Listenings: The Movements of the Spirit

Nouwen’s choice to use the metaphor of movements to describe the spiritual life (pp. viii-ix) instead of steps or stages is more in keeping with both the biblical and psychological understanding of human formation as a journey “from” something “to” something.

A movement carries with it all the energy generated from the past. It is a “yesterday” which propels us into a “tomorrow”—always through “today.”

I guess one of the reasons I like Nouwen so much is that he understood spiritual formation in this way—and lived it.  I do not know of anyone I’ve encountered who understood the metaphor of movement (journey) better than he, and if you’re familiar with his life, you know he was still moving his last day on the earth.  He never stopped moving, and neither must we.

As you’ve likely already discovered (if you’re following these weekly posts with the book in your hand), the editors have selected seven movements that summarize and synthesize Nouwen’s understanding of classical spiritual formation.  In addition, they see these as movements which typically occur in our early, midlife, and mature years.

All of this is joined together via the historic and classical understanding of the spiritual life as “the way of the heart.”  We will turn to an examination of this larger reality before we turn to the movements within it.

For now, God uses Nouwen’s insight to ask us, “Are you on the move?  On the move with Me?”  Are we using the energy of the past to carry us into tomorrow, through the reality of today?  These are the questions we cannot avoid when we seek to develop a spiritual life inspired, informed, directed, and empowered by the movements of the Spirit.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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