In the house where I grew up I remember there was a book on a shelf in the upper hallway that had a picture on the front cover that often caught my attention. The picture was of open hands covering a woman’s face. ‘With Open Hands’ is the title of the book and, Henri Nouwen the author. Books and reading were not my thing growing up, no matter how much my dad had hoped to find me from the corner of his eye, deep into a Hardy Boys mystery novel. This one however, was strikingly different.
Many years later, I was in my twenties, studying at university and beginning to find my feet on the streets of the city. The book popped out to me once again and I had to take a closer look. Lots of pictures and words on faith and Christianity written in a way that I had not encountered before. It was deep and poetic and calling for an encounter with my soul. What was happening here? Who is this guy writing? I was facing a new Christian paradigm, it was spiritual, I found my heart-opening in new ways and my soul expanding.
A new kind of attention seemed to be waking up within me. Faith became not so much about doing stuff anymore, just whatever, as much of it as possible, preaching loudly and praying last with melodic eloquence. There was a coming to life everywhere. My hands were opening.
In his book Discernment, Nouwen writes that “Apart from the love of God in our lives, we are people lost at sea, without anchors. We stand alone without supporting walls, without a floor to walk on, without a ceiling to protect us, without a hand to guide us, without eyes that look at us with love, without a companion to show the way.”  The presence of God meets us with practical support. At this meeting point, confusion turns into trust and fistful of pride opens with a deep breath and new opportunity. Questions are answered without a striving but by simple surrender to Kairos, an opening up ‘to endless new possibilities’ .
Discernment and Connection.
We have to make decisions fairly quickly sometimes, so quick it almost seems like a bit of coin flip. Every decision is important because there is an effect (not always lasting) imposed through each one, let’s hope to a greater extent positively. Slowing in the moment and being patient, listening and waiting for direction. Spiritual discernment streams from relationship and sound connection with God, ‘that place where the Holy Spirit lives, knows, loves and guides from within our own awareness.’ . We live in the midst of rush and chaos, stillness and silence call for us to wait, to be still, to pray. While we are in His presence, patient, listening our hearts are set in the care of God. Nouwen encourages that discernment is a call to be in the Love of God. Slow down. Take a deep breath into Kairos.
Street culture in the inner-city contains different flavours and languages, style-of-dress and drama. To survive on the street, it is vital to think and act quickly at times. There’s an edge that we can find ourselves trying to balance on, there’s a struggle that thrives in the chaos and that bends to breaking if one’s guard is let down. A man who I used to work with, a huge guy with teardrop tattoos who guzzled power shakes by the gallons, often succumbed to the tsunamis we face in the lives of those we serve and wore the destruction of the streets. Seeing this, listening, I would with care motion for quiet in our souls as we served by putting my finger to my mouth and pointing upwards. The next signal, like a third base coach to the batter, to my heart and then, to him. This was us, in care and discernment for one another and his signals in moments of distress lifted me. There was such relief in his big smile.
Do we have time to listen to the inner voice of Love?
‘Deep silence leads us to suspect that, in the first place, prayer is acceptance.’ 
 Nouwen, Henri. Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life. New York. Harper One. 2013.
 Nouwen, Henri. With Open Hands. Notre Dame, Indiana. Ave Maria Press. 1972.