The movement from sorrow to joy is the way Henri Nouwen describes the essence of spiritual formation in midlife.
With the movement into transparency (openness) in the first movement of our formation, we see that our lives are not what God intended for them to be, nor are they what we have hoped they would be.
This is not pathological (thought it can be), but rather it is the way we realize the truth of the Bible: “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Nouwen’s use of the word “loss” is a more psychological acknowledgment of this theological reality. But whatever we term it, we come to the place where we are called to acknowledge our need.
We are not the masters of our fate and the captains of our soul; we are men and women who have suffered the loss of many things—the ultimate being the relationship with God that we are intended to have.
Without the acknowledgement of loss, Nouwen believes (e.g. page 41), we cannot continue the formative journey into what he calls “joy.” But how do we acknowledge our losses? That’s what must occupy our attention in the coming posts. There is a destructive way to acknowledge them, and many people follow that path so that they end up imprisoned and defeated by their losses.
But as we shall see, and as Nouwen points out, there are constructive ways to face our losses. The facing of our losses in the ways we will explore are part of our spiritual formation—necessary actions for the journey of the soul.