“You don’t think your way into a new kind of living. You live your way into a new kind of thinking.”
– Henri Nouwen
One of my heroes is Henri Nouwen. If you don’t know who he is, read everything you can get your hands on. Nouwen wrote tons of books on the spiritual life and how to develop disciplines: not a disembodied experience that is other-worldly and transcendent, but a very earthly and active lifestyle that is centered on God and others in this world.
Out of all the quotes I could mention off the top of my head, this one above has had the most impact as of late. Many times I give myself over to the more analytical side of life, staying in my head with my various thoughts, dreams and imaginations. But l realize more and more life is not lived in that realm. Sure, it is an important and integral part of life, but it is not the center. The center is our doing and actions, the real decisions and practices we commit to. As Donald Miller says, a character is what he does. We love characters and heroes in movies because of what they do, not what they are thinking about doing. Therefore, it doesn’t matter who “I think I am”, it matters what I do. People will understand and know me by my decisions, not what I aspire to be in my head.
Nouwen understood this completely. We are changed by our “lived-out” lives, not by our thinking. We tell better stories when we live them out. Many of us want to have our convictions and understanding set right before we move, but that is basically impossible. And a lot of times, it just justifies our inaction. I don’t want to do that anymore, I want people to know me by what I do, not what I am thinking about doing. My insecurities, my judgements, my flaws will only be changed when I start taking action to them and when I stop trying to think about them differently.