Answers From Above

I will admit to being a little uneasy with the title of this inspirational reflection.  It sounds a bit like the tv evangelist’s easy advice.  And I know that says everything about me and, hopefully, does not say anything negative about those for whom that is always the answer…the answer from above.  If nothing else, it doubtlessly means I am unpracticed in getting answers from above. 

But hey, I figure, I am not dead yet!  So I have a chance to learn and grow.  And that is what the spiritual journey is about…learning and growing.  After all, the term, disciple, simply means “student.”  And I think it is funny.  I am a professor.  Yet I am very much still a student of life.  I think my life’s prayer is “Lord, teach me well.” 

And in this case, that means learning about those answers from above.  Not surprisingly, the focus comes out of some reading I am doing.  As I recently remarked, I am slowly working my way through Henri Nouwen’s book, Spiritual Direction.  In the section I just read, he recounts a story about the time he met Mother Teresa of Calcutta.   

Now since I personally knew Nouwen, I can just hear him talking.  He said he was struggling with the complexity of his life (he usually was!), so he “decided to use the occasion to ask Mother Teresa’s advice.”  I laughed when Nouwen said he spent some real time tying to convince her “how complicated it all was!” 

And I beamed when Nouwen settled down, became quiet, and she began to talk.  In one line she told him to spend an hour a day in adoration, don’t do anything wrong, and everything would be fine.  And Nouwen being Nouwen confessed that she “punctured my big balloon of complex self-complaints and pointed me far beyond myself to the place of real healing.” 

It is easy to begin to see the picture.  That place of real healing seems obvious to me to be linked to the “above” from which answers come.  Mother Teresa was tender toward Nouwen.  Many of us probably would laugh at him and say something like, “don’t take yourself so seriously!” 

How many of us are carrying around, like Nouwen, a “big bag of complex self-complaints?”  Perhaps, some or even many of these complaints are legitimate.  But complaining often does not fix anything.  In fact, complaining often turns off the others whom we want to listen to our complaints.  Like we said, they want to tell us, “don’t take yourself so seriously.” 

Now Henri Nouwen begins to teach me.  He said he recognized he was asking questions “from below.”  And when we ask those questions, we usually get answers “from below.”  As he says, “The result is often more confusion.” 

Nouwen knew that “she had given me an answer from above.”  I realize I am ok with that.  The “answer from above” is not a specific answer.  God is not a puppeteer pulling my strings nor anyone else’s.  From above God ultimately provides meaning and gives purpose.  That I believe. 

And I also believe to learn that meaning and purpose I will need to be open to the answers from above.  More than likely, those answers will come as generalities…generalities like love people.  God will not need to give me the specifics; I can figure out how to love people specifically. 

That’s probably what Mother Teresa meant by don’t do anything wrong!  Not bad for an answer from above!!

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