Tag Archives: Howard Thurman

The Experience of Love – Howard Thurman

After a  two-year absence from my blog, I’ve decided to resume writing. I will begin the relaunch of this space with the words of one my favorite Theologians, Howard Thurman.

The Experience of Love

There is a steady anxiety that surrounds man’s experiences of love. Sometimes the radiance of love is so soft and gentle that the individual sees himself with all harsh lines wiped away and all limitations blended with his strengths in so happy a combination that strength seems to be everywhere and weakness is nowhere to be found. This is a part of the magic, the spell of love. Sometimes the radiance of love kindles old fires that have long since grown cold from the neglect of despair, or new fires are kindled by a hope born full-blown without beginning and without ending.  Sometimes the radiance of love blesses a life with a vision of its possibilities never before dreamed of or sought, stimulating new endeavor and summoning all latent powers to energize the life at its inmost core.

But there are other ways by which love works its perfect work. It may stab the spirit by calling forth a bitter, scathing self-judgment. The heights to which it calls may seem so high that all incentive is lost and the individual is stricken with an utter hopelessness and despair. It may throw in relief old and forgotten weaknesses to which one has made the adjustment of acceptance – but which now stir in their place to offer themselves as testimony of one’s unworthiness and to challenge the love with their embarrassing authenticity. It is at such times that one expects love to be dimmed under the mistaken notion that love is at long last based upon merit and worth.

Behold the miracle! Love has no awareness of merit and demerit; it has no scale by which its portion may be weighed or measured. It does not seek to balance giving and receiving. Love loves; this is its nature. But this does not mean that love is blind, naive, or pretentious. It does mean that love holds its object securely in its grasp, calling all that it sees by its true name but surrounding all with a wisdom born both of its passion and its understanding. Here is no traffic in sentimentality, no catering to weakness or to strength. Instead, there is robust vitality that quickens the roots of personality, creating an unfolding of the self that redefines, reshapes, and makes all things new. Such an experience is so fundamental in quality that an individual knows that what is happening to him can outlast all things without itself being dissipated or lost.

Whence comes this power which seems to be the point of referral for all experience and the essence of all meaning? No created thing, no single unit of life, can be the source of such fullness and completeness. For in the experience itself a man is caught and held by something so much more than he can ever think or be that there is but one word by which its meaning can be encompassed – God. Hence the Psalmist says that as long as the love of God shines on us undimmed, not only may no darkness obscure but also we may find our way to a point in other hearts beyond all weakness and all strength, beyond all that is good and beyond all that is evil. There is no thing outside ourselves, no circumstance, no condition, no vicissitude, that can ultimately separate us from the love of God and from the love of one another. And we pour out our gratitude to God that this is so!

Where Shall I Go From Your Presence?

As previously shown I am an admirer of the writings of the great theologian Howard Thurman. While reading For the Inward Journey, in one of my seminary classes we examined one of his writings based on Psalm 139, entitled “Whither Shall I Go from Thy Presence?”

This is how it reads:

Whither shall I go from Thy Presence? From thee is there some hiding place? The deed is a thing so private, so inside the prefect working of desire that its inward part seems known to me, to me alone. The ebb and flow of thoughts within my hidden sea, the forms that stir within the channels of my mind, keep tryst with all my hidden hopes and fears. The ties that hold me fast to those whose life with mine makes one, The tangled twine that binds my life with things I claim as mine, are held in place by folds of my embrace. The sealed stillness that walls around the heartaches and the pain, is held against all else that would invade. Awe-filled contrition emptied clear of violence and sin, seeps slowly from the wilderness of my deserted soul. Almighty joy mounts to the brim and overflows in wild array, with music only ears attuned can hear. And yet, always I know that another sees and understands every vigil with me keeps watch. The door through which He comes no man can shut, He is the Door! I cannot go from Thy Presence, there is no hiding place from Thee.

This begins with a question, “Where can I go…” Even the places I go to be away from others, God is still there. The thoughts and ideas that I keep hidden from others, God sees and knows. Through the walls of protection I have erected, God sees and understands. There is such reassurance in this statement because even when I don’t believe other people can relate to me, God sees and understands. It ends with a statement; there is no place that I can go. As it says in the Psalm, if I go into the heavens, God is there, and if I made my bed in hell, God is there. God is there even in the hidden parts of me. I cannot close God out by closing the door, because God is the Door!

Make It Plain!

Reservoir or Canal

I decided to share the writings of one of my favorite theologians, Howard Thurman. I admit that I did not become familiar with he and his writings until I my first year of seminary, but when I discovered him there was an immediate connection to his words. I actually took a class completed dedicated to Howard Thurman and thoroughly enjoyed delving into the mind of this God-man! Anyway, this is one of his writings that I love, so I’m sharing; these are his words, not MINE, I hope you enjoy!

To learn more about the man, the mystic, the theologian go to – http://www.howardthurmanfilm.com

Reservoir or Canal

Are you a reservoir or a canal or a swamp? The distinction is literal. The function of a canal is to channel water; it is a device by which water may move from one place to another in an orderly and direct manner. It holds water in a temporary sense only; it holds it in transit from one point to another. The function of the reservoir is to contain, to hold water. It is a large receptacle designed for the purpose, whether it is merely an excavation in the earth or some vessel especially designed. It is a place in which water is stored in order that it may be available when needed. In it provisions are made for outflow and inflow.

A swamp differs from either. A swamp has an inlet but no outlet. Water flows into it but there is no provision made for water to flow out. The result? The water rots and many living things die. Often there is a strange and deathlike odor that pervades the atmosphere. The water is alive but apt to be rotten. There is life in a swamp but it is stale.

The dominant trend of a man or woman’s life may take on the characteristics of a canal, reservoir, or swamp. The important accent is on the dominant trend. There are some lives that seem ever to be channels, canals through which things flow. They are connecting links between other people, movements, purposes. They make the network by which all kinds of communications are possible. They seem to be adept at relating needs to sources of help, friendlessness to friendliness. Of course, the peddler of gossip is also a canal. If you are a canal, what kind of things do you connect?

Or are you a reservoir? Are you a resource which may be drawn upon in times of others’ needs and your own as well? Have you developed a method for keeping your inlet and your outlet in good working order so that the cup which you give is never empty? As a reservoir, you are a trustee of all the gifts God has shared with you. You know they are not your own.

Are you a swamp? Are you always reaching for more and more, hoarding whatever comes your way as your special belongings. If so, do you wonder why you are friendless, why the things you touch seem ever to decay? A swamp is a place where living things often sicken and die. The water in a swamp has no outlet.

Canal, reservoir, or swamp – which? – Taken from Meditations of the Heart – Howard Thurman