The words of the late spiritual theologian Henri Nouwen have a way of inviting me into a deeper place of quiet reflection. When my spirit feels restless and my soul longs for nourishment, I have a tendency to turn to Nouwen. His words are simple and calm. They have taken me to lofty places that, at times, my mind refuses to journey to, but in serene silence, my spirit yearns to make the ascent.
Nouwen’s passionate prose has pushed me to places that have delivered me from self-inflicted misery, places that showed me how to turn my mourning into dancing, places that reminded me that I was God’s beloved and places that showed me how to break free from the tyranny of insecurity.
I guess I am drawn to Nouwen’s writing because his words are not the words of a writer trying to be impressive or an academic yearning for acceptance from his peers. Rather, they are the words of a human being struggling with what it means to be human. To be human is to wrestle with all of life’s complexities, to struggle with the complications that seem inherent to our personalities and to learn to embrace the diversity and nuances of life that make living a beautiful, yet difficult journey. I have come to view Nouwen as a traveling companion on my road to self-discovery, and I have been thankful for his company for these many years.
The other day, I was not in my best mood. I was about to send out invitations to my pity party when a friend of mine sent me a text message. In her text message, there was a quote from Nouwen and, just like that, he showed up as an uninvited guest whose sole intent was to crash my party.
Nouwen’s words leapt from the screen of my phone and began an internal rebellion against my temporary moment of misery: “We must dare to opt consciously for our chosenness and not allow our emotions, feelings or passions to seduce us into self-rejection.”
Those words were a necessary intrusion that rescued me from thoughts and emotions that, at that moment, were causing feelings of inadequacy. Have you ever been there? It is a moment when you find yourself bombarded by negative thoughts and images about yourself. You highlight all the things about you that you don’t like and become pessimistic about your future. You shun the things about you that make you unique because other people think that your uniqueness is quirky. You groan for external affirmation and validation only to feel like everything and everybody other than you is affirmed. These are the moments in our lives when deliverance from despondency is necessary, and on that day, Nouwen’s words delivered me.
Once again, Nouwen reminded me to embrace my uniqueness and honor the things about myself that I love. It is amazing how traveling companions know just when to show up! Today, I dare you to affirm your uniqueness. I know you can find a million things about who you are that can induce sadness and fill you with anxiety about yourself, but I challenge you to honor the best of who you are today. Be thankful that you are one of a kind and accentuate the positive.
Of all the options available to you right now, opt to rejoice about your uniqueness!