“All the great experiences of life –the freedom to be, our encounters with truth, loving and being loved, daily dying to self, and so forth—are worked out in the quiet turbulence of an impoverished spirit.”
The Wisdom of Tenderness
The truth of this idea is sobering, profound, and beautiful. The last time I read this book I commented on this paragraph in the margins, writing “What would the world list as the ‘great experiences of life’?”
I have chased after the “worldly” great experiences: the heady pleasures of feeling attractive, desired, important, and envied; the counterfeit freedom of letting loose at parties and clubs; indulging in fine meals and spa pedicures and daily Starbucks.
However, I cannot honestly say I’ve chased Manning’s great experiences. I may have ached for truth and the “freedom to be” without realizing that’s what I was hungering for. I may have performed in a particular way to earn the love I wanted, without admitting that’s what I was doing. I may have craved finding my life, and newness of life, without realizing that it costs losing it first and daily dying to myself.
What is remarkable is that, in Norway, these experiences chased after me. Or rather, God chased after me with these experiences in hand, like a lover pursuing his indifferent beloved with a bouquet of flowers. It wasn’t until I turned and let him catch me that I saw just how beautiful these things are.
And when I read Manning’s words, something clicked for me and I realized that is why I had an amazing year in Europe….because it was made up of these “great experiences” and more. At Grimerud, I felt the freedom to be – to be myself, to be sad or joyful or frustrated or broken or silly – like I never have before. Sometimes I could almost literally feel the sensation of growing into myself, like a muffin rising in its pan.
From the moment I opened myself up to truth, I encountered it in breath-taking and mind-stretching ways. My framework was bent and broken so many times until I had the room to lift up my arms and stretch in God’s truth, to dance and delight in it. Being on DTS staff taught me about dying to myself (though I am still pathetically far from this being a daily occurrence), and about loving others and letting myself be loved by them, too. I tasted the exquisite sweetness of pouring myself out for others and then freely drinking when they poured themselves out for me.
But the fact of the matter is, Manning finishes this quote by saying that these experiences “are worked out in the quiet turbulence of an impoverished spirit.” Moving to Norway and feeling disoriented, out of control, and utterly alone slowly moved me into the “poor in spirit” category.” I believe that’s what caused a door in my heart to blow open and on the other side – my first true glimpse of the Kingdom of Heaven. And the world’s greatest experiences pale in comparison.