How does the Spirit of God manifest itself through us? Often we think that to witness means to speak up in defense of God. This idea can make us very self-conscious. We wonder where and how we can make God the topic of our conversations and how to convince our families, friends, neighbors, and colleagues of God’s presence in their lives. But this explicit missionary endeavor often comes from an insecure heart and, therefore, easily creates divisions.
The way God’s Spirit manifests itself most convincingly is through its fruit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). These fruit speak for themselves. It is, therefore, always better to raise the question “How can I grow in the Spirit?” than the question “How can I make others believe in the Spirit?”
— Henri Nouwen from Bread For The Journey
Right Living and Right Speaking
To be a witness for God is to be a living sign of God’s presence in the world. What we live is more important than what we say, because the right way of living always leads to the right way of speaking. When we forgive our neighbors from our hearts, our hearts will speak forgiving words. When we are grateful, we will speak grateful words, and when we are hopeful and joyful, we will speak hopeful and joyful words.
When our words come too soon and we are not yet living what we are saying, we easily give double messages. Giving double messages—one with our words and another with our actions—makes us hypocrites. May our lives give us the right words, and may our words lead us to the right lives.
— Henri Nouwen from Bread For The Journey
My Soul Preached To Me
My soul preached to me and taught me to love
that which the people abhor and befriend him
whom they revile.
My soul showed me that Love prides itself not
only in the one who loves, but also in the
Ere my soul preached to me, Love was in my heart
as a tiny thread fastened between two pegs.
But now Love has become a halo whose beginning
is its end, and whose end is its beginning. It
surrounds every being and extends slowly to
embrace all that shall be.
My soul advised me and taught me to perceive the
hidden beauty of the skin, figure, and hue. She
instructed me to meditate upon that which the
people call ugly until its charm and delight
Ere my soul counselled me, I saw beauty like a
trembling torch between two columns of smoke.
Now since the smoke has vanished, I see naught save the flame.
My soul preached to me and taught me to listen
to the voices which the tongue and the larynx
and the lips do not utter.
Ere my soul preached to me, I heard naught but
clamor and wailing. But now I eagerly attend
Silence and hear its choirs singing hymns of the
ages and the songs of the firmament announcing
the secrets of the Unseen.
My soul preached to me and instructed me to
drink the wine that cannot be pressed and cannot
be poured from cups that hands can lift or lips
Ere my soul preached to me, my thirst was like a
dim spark hidden under the ashes that can be
extinguished by a swallow of water.
But now my longing has become my cup, my
affections my wine, and my lonliness my
intoxication; yet, in this unquenchable thirst
there is eternal joy.
My soul preached to me and taught me to touch
that which has not become incarnate; my soul
revealed to me that whatever we touch is part of
our desire. But now my fingers have turned into mist
penetrating that which is seen in the universe
and mingling with the Unseen.
My soul instructed me to inhale the scent that
no myrtle or incense emits.
Ere my soul preached to me,
I craved the scent of perfume in the
gardens or in flasks or in censers.
But now I can savor the incense that is not
burnt for offering or sacrifice. And I fill my
heart with a fragrance that has never been
wafted by the frolicsome breeze of space.
My soul preached to me and taught me to say,
“I am ready” when the Unknown and
Danger call on me.
Ere my soul preached to me, I answered no voice
save the voice of the crier whom I knew, and
walked not save uopn the easy and smooth path.
Now the Unknown has become a steed that I can
mount in order to reach the Unknown; and the
plain has turned into a ladder on whose steps
I climb to the summit.
My soul spoke to me and said, “Do not
measure Time by saying, ‘There was yesterday,
and there shall be tomorrow.’ ”
And ere my soul spoke to me, I imagined the Past
as an epoch that never returned, and the Future
as one that could never be reached.
Now I realize that the present moment contains
all time and within it is all that can be hoped
for, done, and realized.
My soul preached to me exhorting me not to limit
space by saying, “Here, there, and yonder.
Ere my soul preached to me, I felt that wherever
I walked was far from any other space.
Now I realize that wherever I am contains all
places; and the distance that I walk embraces
My soul instructed me and advised me to stay
awake while others sleep. And to surrender to
slumber when others astir.
Ere my soul preached to me, I saw not their
dreams in my sleep, neither did they observe my vision.
Now I never sail the vessel of my dreams unless
they watch me, and they never soar into the sky
of their vision unless I rejoice in their freedom.
My soul preached to me and said, “Do not be
delighted because of praise, and do not be
distressed because of blame.”
Ere my soul counselled me, I doubted the worth
of my work. Now I realize the trees blossom in Spring
and bear fruit in Summer without seeking praise; and
they drop their leaves in Autumn and become
naked in Winter without fearing blame.
My soul preached to me and showed me that I am
neither more than the pygmy, nor less than the
Ere my soul preached to me, I looked upon
humanity as two men: one weak, whom I pitied,
and the other strong, whom I followed or
resisted in defiance. But now I have learned
that I was as both are and made from the same elements.
My origin is their origin, my conscience is their conscience,
my contention is their contention, and my pilgrimage
is their pilgrimage.
If they sin, I am also a sinner. If they do
well, I take pride in their well-doing. If they
rise, I rise with them. If they stay inert, I
share their slothfulness.
My soul spoke to me and said, “The lantern
which you carry is not yours, and the song that
you sing was not composed within your heart,
for even if you are a lute fastened with strings,
you are not the lute player.”
My soul preached to me, my brother, and taught
me much. And your soul has preached and taught
as much to you. For you and I are one, and there
is no variance between us save that I urgently
declare that which is in my inner self, while
you keep as a secret that which is within you.
But in your secrecy there is a sort of virtue.
— Khalil Gibran from Thoughts and Meditations