Dear Henri, An Odd Kind of Fast – Week 18


Dear Henri,

I've come to the end of my month of from work. Starting tomorrow, life will resume as it was… I think. July didn't turn out as I'd planned, but it also brought a lot of opportunities I would never have expected. It was good, it was bad, it was ugly. I suppose I should say something about beauty in the ugliness too, hey…?

When the reality of Coming Home's spiritual retreat cancellation settled down into my stomach, I began a fast of sorts. I didn't consciously think about it, I didn't deliberatley choose it (at first), but looking back on it, it was the best thing I could have done.

I fasted from God.

No praying the hours, no journalling in the morning, no "Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals", and NO prayer.

“There is a twilight zone in our hearts that we ourselves cannot see. Even when we know quite a lot about ourselves-our gifts and weaknesses, our ambitions and aspirations, our motives and our drives-large parts of ourselves remain in the shadow of consciousness. This is a very good thing. We will always remain partially hidden to ourselves. Other people, especially those who love us, can often see our twilight zones better than we ourselves can. The way we are seen and understood by others is different from the way we see and understand ourselves. We will never fully know the significance of our presence in the lives of our friends. That's a grace, a grace that calls us not only to humility, but to a deep trust in those who love us. It is the twilight zones of our hearts where true friendships are born.” -Henri Nouwen

There was no prayer on my part in my Twilight Zone. At least, no conscious daily prayer I was used to or had practiced. I'd simply had had enough. Ironic that I was planning to host a spiritual retreat for youth, isn't it? Plans go wonky and I have a tantrum.

Maybe it was the Culture Wars — just too many scary voices screaming at each other over LGBTQ people, children stuck at borders, or refugees. Christian, atheist, Muslim, pagan, secular, whatever… we really do love sticking it to other people don't we, Henri? Maybe I just didn't have the fight for July. Maybe I was too full of fight. I don't know.

Nor did I know what to pray for, to write directly to God, or to say. We had interest from youth, full funding, a place to rent, volunteers — it all had fallen into place. Finally. But the dream was deferred. Again. I couldn't face another "again". Not when we were so close this time. The paranoid freak in me kept whispering about all the people who were laughing at me at yet another Coming Home failure. "When will she learn?!" It seemed God had played a giant cosmic joke.

Maybe, too, that instead of God's voice during quiet times, I kept hearing the voice of other people who were really trying to be helpful. Despite your words of others being able to see the twilight zones of the parts of ourselves we cannot see, I honestly had to race away from some of these "well-meaning" words: 

"Don't think of it as a failure. It's just not meant to be yet!"

"Think positive thoughts!"

"God makes good things out of bad times."

"Have you checked your karma? Maybe you did something that brought this about."

"If you don't learn the lessons God has for you during this difficult time, they'll just keep coming back again and again until you learn them."

I decided that if I ever came off like one of Job's friends to anyone else, those people would have license to drop me off a cliff. Call it an extended tantrum, call it childish, call it whatever you want, Henri, but when people offered their advice, I didn't feel like I was being heard at all — not my thoughts, not my feelings, not my beliefs. I just needed to wave the positive thinking wand and all would be well. Poof!

Pardon me while I grind my teeth.

So with all of those helpful voices rattling around in my head, I had zero desire to get up in the morning and meet with "God". It felt more like getting up to meet with everyone else's perceptions. I had to get it out of my system.

Is that wicked of me?

You're right… probably not. Not at all. A little immature, maybe, but not wicked.

I don't know where to go from here, Henri; I don't know what to do with the excess grant money (enough to cover tiny expenses, but not enough to begin something new entirely); I don't know what connections to make; I don't know how to present myself or share this vision of Coming Home (again); I don't know how not to be frustrated with people who seem to be living out their callings and vocations already.

Can you understand why I needed to fast from God?

Or at least my practice of worshipping God…

… because I made it a habit of spending time by the lake each day reading books by Father Greg Boyle, Brennan Manning, Sara Miles, Matthew Vines, Michelle DeRusha and more. I realized that I had fallen woefully behind in my letter-writing to you, Henri, so I tried to make it a daily habit to send you some thoughts or questions. And I had time to spend with people who needed help, support or an ear — all things vastly different than my usual routine.

Maybe the simple disruption in routine was what I needed.

If I know myself (and I do), routine is vital to my sense of well-being. Disruptions aren't generally welcome. But this one seemed to come naturally. Everything collapsed, and I walked away. I had to get away. I needed to get away.

And it felt good.

I don't think God is too pissed off with my immaturity. In fact, God probably nudged me over the edge. God was (and is) probably out here in this routine disruption waiting for me. As furious as I was at the silence, I've come to appreciate it. With all the other voices of advice trying to make sense of the current situation, maybe God called me away from all of that and then…

… God shut up.

As much as I feel I need God to speak (and nobody else, including myself right now), maybe silence to help cleanse the spirit is what's being called for. 

So I'm not going to feel guilty about not reading my bible, praying, writing or 'worshipping' each morning. I think it's exactly what I needed to do.

Where God and I go from here… who knows?

Until next time, Henri,


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