Day 34 – Can You Drink the Cup? – Henri Nouwen

Day 34

Can You Drink the Cup?

Henri Nouwen

Chapter 9

The question now is: How do we drink the cup of salvation?

We have to drink our cup slowly, tasting every mouthful-all the way to the bottom! Living a complete life is drinking our cup until it is empty, trusting that God will fill it with everlasting life.

It is important, however, to be very specific when we deal with the question “How do we drink our cup?” We need some very concrete disciplines to help us fully appropriate and internalize our joys and sorrows and find in them our unique way to spiritual freedom. I would like to explore how three disciplines-the discipline of silence, the discipline of the ‘word, and the discipline of action-can help us drink our cup of salvation.

The first way to drink our cup is in silence.

This might come as a surprise, since being silent seems like doing nothing, but it is precisely in silence that we confront our true selves. The sorrows of our lives often overwhelm us to such a degree that we will do everything not to face them. Radio, television, newspapers, books, films, but also hard work and a busy social life all can be ways to run away from ourselves and turn life into a long entertainment.
The word entertainment is important here. It means literally “to keep (tain from the Latin tenere) someone in between (enter).” Entertainment is everything that gets and keeps our mind away from things that are hard to face. Entertainment keeps us distracted, excited, or in suspense. Entertainment is often good for us. It gives us an evening or a day off from our worries and fears. But when we start living life as entertainment, we lose touch with our souls and become little more than spectators in a lifelong show. Even very useful and relevant work can become a way of forgetting who we really are. It is no surprise that for many people retirement is a fearful prospect. Who are we when there is nothing to keep us busy?

Silence is the discipline that helps us to go beyond the entertainment quality of our lives. There we can let our sorrows and joys emerge from their hidden place and look us in the face, saying: “Don’t be afraid you can look at your own journey, its dark and light sides, and discover your way to freedom.” We may find silence in nature, in our own houses, in a church or meditation hall. But wherever we find it, we should cherish it. Because it is in silence that we can truly acknowledge who we are and gradually claim ourselves as a gift from God.

At first silence might only frighten us. In silence we start hearing the voices of darkness: our jealousy and anger, our resentment and desire for revenge, our lust and greed, and our pain over losses, abuses, and rejections. These voices are often noisy and boisterous. They may even deafen us. Our most spontaneous reaction is to run away from them and return to our entertainment.

But if we have the discipline to stay put and not let these dark voices intimidate us, they will gradually lose their strength and recede into the background, creating space for the softer, gentler voices of the light.
These voices speak of peace, kindness, gentleness, goodness, joy, hope, forgiveness, and, most of all, love. They might at first seem small and insignificant, and we may have a hard time trusting them. However, they are very persistent and they will grow stronger if we keep listening. They come from a very deep place and from very far. They have been speaking to us since before we were born, and they reveal to us that there is no darkness in the One who sent us into the world, only light.

They are part of God’s voice calling us from all eternity: “My beloved child, my favorite one, my joy.”

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