So what do you do when that quiet time you’ve set aside for introspection doesn’t make you peaceful and centered, but only seems to beat the grass and startle the snakes? In Bread for the Journey, Henri Nouwen writes:
…when we enter into silence we encounter a lot of inner noises, often so disturbing that a busy and distracting life seems preferable to a time of silence. Two disturbing “noises” present themselves quickly in our silence: the noise of lust and the noise of anger. Lust reveals our many unsatisfied needs, anger, o[u]r many unresolved relationships. But lust and anger are very hard to face. What are we to do? ….
Nouwen goes on to say that, rather than reacting in horror and immediately trying to quash our unruly impulses, we should instead turn these inner enemies into friends.
How do we befriend our inner enemies lust and anger? By listening to what they are saying. They say, “I have some unfulfilled needs” and “Who really loves me?” Instead of pushing our lust and anger away as unwelcome guests, we can recognize that our anxious, driven hearts need some healing. Our restlessness calls us to look for the true inner rest where lust and anger can be converted into a deeper way of loving.
We must be merciful–even to ourselves. If we are not, we risk being unable to bear looking at our fallen reality, or if we do look, we may fail to recognize in ourselves God’s beloved.