Turn My Mourning Into Dancing: Finding Hope In Hard Times
Compiled and edited by Timothy Jones. W Publishing Group, A Division of Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, 2001.
Timothy Jones, a long time devotee of the writings of Henri Nouwen, obviously has taken seriously the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John, to “gather up the fragments, lest they be lost.” (John 6, 12) TURN MY MOURNING INTO DANCING: FINDING HOPE IN HARD TIMES is a labor of love that led the editor/compiler to move beyond the published works of Nouwen to dig deeper into the still untouched, unpublished writings of Nouwen buried in archival file cabinets, waiting to be discovered by other Nouwen disciples. The happy result is yet another volume which gives voice once more to the spiritual guide who has guided millions in their quest to find meaning and direction for their lives in a turbulent world more prone to inspire fear and despair than peace and a future holding promise.
Readers are drawn from the beginning into the excitement of the compiler as he takes them on a tour of his impromptu whirlwind visit to the Nouwen Archives housed in the John M. Kelly library of St. Michael’s College in Toronto, and the warm welcome he received from the L’Arche Community of Daybreak, where Nouwen spent the last 10 years of his life serving as pastor to the community and to the world.
The result of his probings of the archives is TURN MY MOURNING INTO DANCING. The book is divided into 5 major segments under the heading, Five Movements Through Hard Times:
From Our Little Selves to a Larger World.
From Holding Tight to Letting Go.
From Fatalism to Hope.
From Manipulation to Love.
From a Fearful Death to a Joyous Life.
Turning the narrative over to the voice of Nouwen himself, he explains the choice for the theme and title of the book:
“Mourning makes us poor; it powerfully reminds us of our smallness. But it is precisely here, in that pain or poverty or awkwardness that the Dancer invites us to rise up and take the first steps. For in our suffering, not apart from it, Jesus enters our sadness, takes us by the hand, pulls us gently up to stand, and invites us to dance. We find the way to pray, as the psalmist did, “You have turned my mourning into dancing” (Ps. 30: 11), because at the center of our grief we find the grace of God.”
The book is sprinkled generously with quotable short-takes and memorable one-liners:
“The losses may be non-negotiables. But we have a choice: How do we live these losses? We are called time and again to discover God’s Spirit at work within our lives, within us, amid even the dark moments. We are invited to choose life. A key in understanding suffering has to do with our not rebelling at the inconveniences and pains life presents to us.” (Pg. 12)
“To be converted fully is to let God lead us out of our compulsions. It means that we admit how we give up ceaselessly trying to “fix” things. Freedom is the opposite of compulsive obsessions.” (30)
Commenting on John 21: 18-19:
“A psychologist would tell us, “When you were young someone else girded and guided you, but now that you are old you can go on your own power.” But Jesus says that maturity means growing willingness to be led even to places we might not eagerly choose.” (36)
“There is an old expression that says, “As long as there is life there is hope.” As Christians we also say, “As long as there is hope there is life.” (61)
“The paradox of expectation is that those who believe in tomorrow can better live today.” (62)
This is not a book one would pack into a suitcase for a honeymoon trip. But for someone struggling with life and death issues, severe setbacks or even the ordinary disappointments in life it could be just what the doctor ordered. For someone interested in deepening their spiritual life, the book offers itself as a handy guide to growth and maturity.
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