I Do Not Belong to the World

blur boat close up paper
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I am struggling to stay afloat — physically and mentally.

I share that, not for need of sympathy, but because it is likely that some of you are also dealing with feelings of stress, overwhelm, or anxiety. Right now, it is a challenge not to worry. It is difficult to repress anger. It is hard to find peace. If that is where you are, you are not alone. 

And…on top of all that is going on in our world, it is like 210 degrees in Arizona. Sigh.

This evening, instead of reading email, or planning for the upcoming school year I decided to read a book. I’m currently working my way through The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri J.M. Nouwen. It is the second book on my summer reading list. I love Nouwen’s writing and I was confident this would be a good one. So far I have not been disappointed.

Given current challenges, this passage stood out.

At issue here is the question: “To whom do I belong? To God or to the world?” Many of my daily preoccupations suggest that I belong more to the world than to God. A little criticism makes me angry, and a little rejection makes me depressed. A little praise raises my spirits, and a little success excites me. It takes very little to raise me up or thrust me down. Often I am like a small boat on the ocean, completely at the mercy of its waves. All the time and energy I spend in keeping some kind of balance and preventing myself from being tipped over and drowning shows that my life is mostly a struggle for survival: not a holy struggle, but an anxious struggle resulting from the mistaken idea that it is the world that defines me.

Do you feel at the mercy of the waves? Are you locked in an “anxious struggle?”

Nouwen goes on to say:

The world’s love is and always will be conditional. As long as I keep looking for my true self in the world of conditional love, I will remain “hooked” to the world — trying, failing, and trying again. It is a world that fosters addictions because what it offers cannot satisfy the deepest craving of my heart.

The current situation in our world has humbled me. It has been a harsh reminder that I am not in control. That I don’t have the answers. That I don’t know the pain and suffering of others. It has made evident the fact that I frequently seek acceptance and reassurance from a world that is broken and unable to offer peace for which I am searching.

I do not belong to the world.

Hang in there!

My Summer Reading List

books in black wooden book shelf
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[Update June 9, 2020]

My summer reading goals are always overly ambitious.

As I write, there is a stack of books —  at least two feet high — sitting on my nightstand. All books that I pulled from various shelves around the house in hopes of getting some reading done. And, that doesn’t include the books on my Kindle.

So I have decided to identify just a few and commit to reading them. Four just because I want to read them, three books related to my work, and one book I will listen to on audio. I’m a pretty ambitious reader, but this may be a tough list to tackle (especially since my summer may be cut short in order to prepare for the many unknowns of the 2020-21 school year).

Just Because…

The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead

Completed June 8, 2020 – the author, Colson Whitehead uses an imaginative means of conveying the horrors of slavery. This was an eye-opening and timely read. For a quick “preview” read this piece by the National Book Foundation. I have also read The Nikel Boys, by Mr. Whitehead, and really enjoyed it.

The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming – Henri Nouwen

Good  and Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining, and Bitterness – David Powllison

Killing Floor (Jack Reacher) – Lee Child

Work Related…

Multiplication is for White People”: Raising Expectations for Other Peoples Children – Lisa Delpit

The Growth Mindset Coach – Brock and Hundley

10 Mindframes for Visible Learning: Teaching for Success – Hattie and Zierer

On Audio…

Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on The Poor– Farmer and Sen

Note: I have not read these books, so this post is not an endorsement (although I feel pretty safe in recommending the Nouwen book). I have linked to Amazon so you can preview the books. This isn’t a sales pitch. I don’t get anything if you decide to purchase the book.