Listenings: Human Transformation

A look at Nouwen’s comments on nature and time reveals that he understands spiritual formation within the larger context of transformation.  God is in the process of “converting” all of life, and spiritual formation is the way he describes the change.

After looking at the conversion of nature and time, he turns to the transformation of the human being.  He speaks of it in relation to the contemplative life, which (as he has already shown) is the process of becoming increasingly “transparent.”

When Nouwen speaks of transparency, he means that the thing itself (nature, time, or the human being) reveals a reality beyond itself.  When it comes to human existence, it means that to be a person (p. 11) is to reveal a reality greater than first impressions and surface appearances.  We are persons, not caricatures.

Life as God intends it to be lived is “through a love greater than we ourselves can grasp, a truth deeper than we ourselves can articulate, and a beauty richer than we ourselves can contain” (p. 11).

Nouwen contends that the transparency which results in these revelations is possible only by prayer, “a discipline by which a world of darkness is transformed into one of transcendent light” (p. 12).  Prayer is the means by which chronos is transformed into kairos–from what Nouwen calls history to his-story (p. 12).

This perspective is completely in keeping with our original creation in the image of God.  Among other things, the imago dei gives us the capacity for relationship, the capacity to pray (converse with God), which becomes the basis for our transformation—as we listen to God and respond (by grace) in ways that move us from darkness to light, from death to life.

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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