I picked up The Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen this morning, a gift from an old friend Stefan Wiltz. We both were in ministry together, working for Young Life at the time. We were young, in our late 20s and both interested in the Christian mystics, delving into writers we knew nothing about. And for so many of us in the late 90s, Nouwen was our guide to the spiritual life. Life in the Spirit, not just life in the Way of Jesus, meaning that we were coming to understand the energy, motivation and pace of life animated by the Spirit that gave way to the life of Jesus.
I married Pete when I was 24 years old. I’ve known Pete for more than half of my life. My adult life was built beside, in partnership with him. And now I find myself entering into a season of learning to live in partnership with him in a very new way. The love is still very, very real and still quite familiar. And I am surrounded by the people and places and things that we fashioned together: our beautiful adult sons, their gentle and kind chosen partners, our two stunning grandchildren, our dear friends, our church, the vast pile of stringed instruments, the same coffee mugs and even the bedding that changed this year from a queen size bed to a hospital bed beside a twin. All of the “stuff” that made up our life is present.
I’ve never lived alone. It seems embarrassing to admit something like that in the 21st century. I'm a professional woman, a spiritual guide in my community. I am strong and independent and I feel completely untethered . It's so disorienting. I would often tell Pete, “you are my home.” And so then, where is home for me? That’s the disorienting part.
My family has created an oasis on my patio, moving all of my plants outside and starting up the fountain I made out of an old planter given by a woman in my church at the time of her death. My daughter in law to be bought me a wine colored lily full of blooms and it lives beside a bleeding heart, given by a colleague who lost her husband when she too was young.
God is not a person somewhere outside of us, something strong and sturdy to attach myself to. God is much more the air in which we live. How can I affix myself to the air? I cannot. And so there is the rub in my untethered state. I want something sturdy, like an unchanging God or a 6 foot tall man with salt and pepper hair who played a mean bass guitar and always welcomed me home the same way, every day. He turned around in his wheelchair and he said, “Beth’s home! Hi Beth!” I want that kind of welcome, that kind of home base.
Several years back, Pete and I were on vacation with my parents in Colorado. The three of us took a balloon ride without him because his mobility limitations kept him from being able to get into the basket. It was one of the first things I did without him, one of the first adventures I took without him.
The thing I remember most of the balloon ride was that when you are riding with the wind, you do not feel the wind. When you are truly untethered, you move completely with the wind, at the wind’s pace, with the wind’s direction. And it’s quiet. It’s so quiet inside the wind.
Nouwen again is my spiritual guide, helping me understand the energy, motivation and pace of life animated by the Spirit. This untethered ride is the next adventure I take without Pete.