Tag Archives: Henri Nouwen

Letting love in: Mary the beloved leads us

The Annunciation — Henry Ossawa Tanner

On the second Sunday of Advent, Hallowood Institute provided some space for clients and friends to prepare a room for the Lord, to welcome love in. We created space to follow the full arc of Mary’s journey of receiving the angel’s message to entering into the fullness of God’s grace. She moved from doubting her belovedness to confidence in it, from “How can this be?” to the Magnificat. Here is an outline you might like to use to follow her example. I know it can’t really replicate everything that happened, but it might help you stay on the Advent journey.

The Annunciation of a Woman — Harmonia Rosales

First movement:  Doubts about our belovedness

Mary pays attention to the word coming to her and to the doubts it arouses. She listens to her body and to the thoughts that automatically come to her mind.

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,  to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.  And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.  And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” — Luke 1:26-34

When our “angel” comes to us we, like Mary, probably ask, “How can this be?” We doubt God can or would come to us. We doubt we could be important. We doubt we could be worthy. We doubt we could be loved.  We need to go through a process to let love in, to become the beloved of God we are.

Our brains and the rest of our bodies are accustomed to patterns that have defended us from not getting the love we crave and defended many of us from further abuse and disrespect. Our brains are rutted with programs of self-protection that don’t meet our needs and don’t protect us any longer. Our bodies have memories of trauma and fear that cause us to keep reacting in certain ways.

Mary was afraid when God came to her in the angel and doubted she could be part of the wonderful future he promised.

During our retreat we worked a little on getting our left and right brain to integrate. We found a place in ourselves of safety where we could return when we felt afraid. We created a container in our imagination where we could store intrusive thoughts that invaded our meditation.

Then we tried to welcome our doubting parts — the voices that tell us we are not loved. Maybe you would like to try it. Picture a time when you doubted you were loved or even lovable.  What makes you doubt you are loved? Is there an event from your past (distant or near past) that captures the feelings of this doubt? Put it into words. Then, if you can, float back to being 14 years old with Mary. Picture yourself at about that age. Identify the negative beliefs about yourself that go with this doubting picture. Write them out.

The Castello Annunciation by Sandro Botticelli

Second Movement:  Mary lets love in to talk back to her view of self

Mary turns from her former view of self and attends to the new life she is being given.

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”  

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. — Luke 1:35-38

The various depictions of the annunciation tell different stories. The one above shows the second movement we are exploring as Mary shies away from this angel. Is she saying, “Don’t bother me I am trying to read the Bible?” Or is it, more likely “What do you mean ‘nothing is impossible with God?’ I feel quite impossible myself?” The process of moving from doubts about “For nothing will be impossible with God” to “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” is what we were exploring. It takes a process to see ourselves as the beloved of God, to turn away from other views of ourselves and turn into that one.

From Henri Nouwen in Life of the Beloved:

I am putting this so directly and so simply because, though the experience of being the Beloved has never been completely absent from my life, I never claimed it as my core truth. I kept running around it in large or small circles, always looking for someone or something able to convince me of my Belovedness. It was as if I kept refusing to hear the voice that speaks from the very depth of my being and says: “You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests.” That voice has always been there, but it seems that I was much more eager to listen to other, louder voices saying: “Prove that you are worth something; do something relevant, spectacular, or powerful, and then you will earn the love you so desire.” Meanwhile, the soft, gentle voice that speaks in the silence and solitude of my heart remained unheard or, at least, unconvincing….

Try this exercise to name those different “voices” competing to speak the loudest to you. Find a negative view of self that comes up in you. Do not collect all the views you can think of, just one. It might be as simple as when you look in the mirror and you go right to the body part you don’t like like: “too fat” or “bad hair.” But the voices can come from a deeper place: “I don’t deserve to feel good. Someone will discover what I am really like. You are all alone” — even “No one loves you or wants you.” Once we start listening, these often become quite clear as voices competing for our attention. Naming them does not feel good, but it begins to loosen their power on us.

Turn into a positive view of self:  “I am the kind of person who tries to grow” or “I have a very good grandmother” or “I see how I have good choices I can  make.” The big one is, “I am the beloved of God.” Nouwen talks about Listening to the gentle voice of God with great inner attentiveness. That attention makes the “angelic” voice surer and our true selves more obvious. Depriving the other voices of attention makes them weaker, fainter — “I can’t hear you!”

Painting in the Church of El Sitio, Suchitoto, El Salvador

Third Movement: Mary receives validation from Elizabeth

Mary welcomes support to face her fears and enter into her context with confidence.

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.  And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” — Luke 1:39-45

Recent scholarship on healing from identity wounds based in trauma says, “Radical healing involves being or becoming whole in the face of identity-based ‘wounds,’ which are the injuries sustained because of our membership in an oppressed racial or ethnic group.”

We acknowledged how our spiritual journeys differ because of our racist and sexist culture. For some of us, the wisdom of our communities has been deeply damaged by racist practices. Some of us have experiences of both healing and trauma from our interactions with our communities, in our neighborhoods and families, in our interactions with systemic violence, in our churches.

Mary experienced isolation and rejection as her story became known.  She and her young family had to flee oppression and slaughter based in part on race.  In this part of Mary’s story, she seeks much needed validation — even though she has spoken with an angel and knows she is pregnant by the Holy Spirit.  The encounter with Elizabeth validates what she knows inside, what her body is certainly telling her.

Take some time to consider your own journeys and where such validation may emerge for you. Note a few aggressions you have experienced recently.  Gwen’s was “The invisibility I often feel as a woman in leadership positions, or when I am left out, like when my husband got an email that should have also been addressed to me.”

Now consider how you responded to these aggressions. In your childhood were there any practices that you found comforting when faced with hurts — cultural practices or personal practices? What current social networks/systems are offering you support? Where do you feel empowered as Elizabeth empowered Mary? Are there ways you might help create further spaces where you can find this social support?   Notice what’s coming up in your body right now as you consider aggression. Deep breath and long exhale.

We need to meet our Elizabeths.  To listen to them and receive their love and encouragement, even though we already know that the life of Christ is growing in us.

Magnificat by Sister Mary Grace Thul

Fourth Movement: Mary takes her place as the beloved with her “Magnificat”

We created a final space to follow the full arc of Mary’s journey in Belovedness. She moves from doubting her belovedness to confidence in it, from “How can this be?”  to the Magnificat. In her prayer, Mary owns her belovedness and acts out of it.

And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home. — Luke 1:46-56

I was inspired to own my belovedness by Osheta Moore’s Dear White Peacemakers earlier this year. Both Mary and Osheta Moore show their beloved selves in their context, in their families, and in their societies. And they both speak out of this belovedness, claiming their birthright to be the beloved of God, sent with reconciliation into their own space. I actually got in a little trouble with my some people when I quoted Moore teaching that being beloved is where the Lord starts when he calls for truth and justice. It’s a radical and important principle. As beloved is how we should see ourselves and others, even those nazi-like guys who paraded through the Lincoln Memorial the night before our retreat. Even in the battle against white supremacy and the scrourge of racism, we lose our cause if we lose our souls by not seeing ourselves as beloved of God and not insisting that everyone is a potential member of the beloved community.

Osheta Moore is keeping it radical and I am with her. Here is a bit of what she says in Dear White Peacemakers

Jesus says that in this world we will have trouble, but to take heart, for he has overcome the world. He did this by first owning his Belovedness and then proclaiming it to every single person he met. His Belovedness empowered him to challenge societal hierarchies based on fear of the other, offer relief to those who have been oppressed, and eventually to sacrificially love on the cross. When you are grounded in something other than your work or results, when you are grounded in a truer, deeper, soul-healing confidence, you can continue to press on—even if it means death to all your comforts and control. This is your calling when trouble comes as you practice anti-racism….[O]wn your Belovedness so that you can proclaim mine. Belovedness is like a flowing river of renewal and justice. It allows us to challenge systems and have difficult conversations. It moves us from individualism into community.

Many of us wrote moving, personal “magnificats” of our own, to take a stand as the beloved of  God, to affirm we are letting love in — and out.

Mary’s prayer is called “the magnificat” because the first line of it in Latin is “Magníficat ánima mea Dóminum” — in English, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” Familiar prayers have often been known by their first word.

Try writing a prayer of your own. Write it for God, not for anyone else. You could use Mary’s prayer as a model. Better, use the spirit of what she is doing as a guide. She is pulling together the most meaningful thoughts she has into a song of belonging to the Beloved, graced with wonderful things going on inside her. She sees amazing opportunities to offer love to the world.

Our own magnificats sum up the whole process of letting love in. When it is time for you  to speak yours, what have you overcome? what are you standing up against?  When you say, “This is who I am, this is how God sees me, this is what I am for, this is what I intend to do, this is what I hope, this is what my truth in Christ is,” etc., what competes for that view of yourself? It could be your own family, government systems, or oil companies; the list goes on.

What do you say? If it is just: “I am the beloved of God, there’s nothing you can do about it. It is what it is.” That is good enough. That’s a short magnificat I am using this Advent as Jesus is newly born in me in this new era of the world being born.

The way of the heart: Doubting the primacy of the mind

Several of my clients have told me they have a broken heart. Others said their chests pound with tension. They lay awake in bed feeling like they will burst. Others feel like they are going to have a heart attack and possibly die. One said crying uncontrollably works a lot better than the breathing techniques I suggest.

Let’s spend a few minutes letting our hearts and minds be at rest; we need it.

heart vs mind

We have heart problems.

At the recent CAPS Conference, Eric Johnson revealed how unacquainted with our hearts most of us have become. The modern and postmodern eras became increasingly subject to the “mind” as the central feature of human psychology and experience. Scientists thought they were overcoming many centuries of describing the heart of us with the word “heart” by asserting “mind.” But “heart” persists, since that common-sense description of our core experience is built into all the languages of the world (except for scientific language, for the most part).

  • Take heart.
  • Follow your heart.
  • She has a heart of gold.
  • He wears his heart on his sleeve.
  • We had a heart-to-heart talk.
  • He is heartbroken.

We all know what these things mean.

The brain scientists tend to ignore the “embodied metaphors” we learn as children in favor of their “more adult” cognitive bias. Psychology is supposedly the “science of behavior and mental processes.” If you use the everyday term “heart” to describe psychological dynamics it makes you look quaint and scientifically naïve, if not just a bit stupid. But just looking at the fact that stress is related to heart attacks would argue for a whole-body approach to wellbeing, even one centered on the 40,000 neurons clustered around the heart.

The way of Jesus is heartfelt

the heart has its reasonsThe dominant psychological term in the Bible is “heart.” It occurs over 800 times. For instance:

  • “Be wise, and direct your heart in the way” (Proverbs 23:19).
  • “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33).
  • “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
  • “Love one another deeply, from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22).

The psychology of the way of Jesus has been shaped by how we see the heart:

  • “The heart is restless, O Lord until it finds rest in You” (Augustine, Confessions)
  • “Anything on which your heart relies and depends, I say, that is really your God” (Martin Luther, Larger Catechism)
  • “The heart has its reasons which reason does not know” (Blaise Pascal, Pensees, #277)

Since psychology aligned itself with the modern scientific method many critics have argued it leads to a truncated and reductionistic view of human beings. We are uniquely constituted by our beliefs about ourselves. So a distorted sense of our psychology can, and does, impoverish us. Psychology might malform us in the name of science. So when my client tells me his chest feels heavy when we talk about his anxiety and shame, I don’t tell him, “It’s all in your head.” His feeling also reaches back to his first experience of himself as a child and how he has related and considered himself and God ever since.

The way of the heart

the way of the heartPsychologist, priest and spiritual director, Henri Nouwen, consistently used the word “heart” to mean our access point to God through contemplative, listening prayer and active obedience. His little book on the desert fathers and mothers, The Way of the Heart, has been a foundation for prayer for many of us.

The way of the heart helps us come to God with all we are: our fears and anxieties, our guilt and shame; our sexual fantasies; our greed and anger; our joys, successes, aspirations and hopes; our reflections, dreams and mental wanderings; our family, friends and enemies – all that makes us who we are. With all this we listen to God’s voice and participate with God speaking to us in every corner of our being.

As people have become vaccinated in the past weeks, I have repeatedly heard them describe a “weight being lifted.” As the George Floyd murder trial grinds on, mass shootings hit the news and attacks on Asians become known, many people feel deeply infected. Our hearts ache. It is no wonder we describe our experience that way. The “heart” is the secret place in us where our spirit, soul, mind and body come together in a unity of the self. There is no such thing as a disembodied spiritual heart. Our joys and sorrows happen in time. We are restored in Jesus so we can love God, neighbor and self with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength (Luke 10:27).

The way of the heart sends us on a quest with a lot of questions. The main one is “Who am I? What is at the heart of me? Can I trust my heart? Will Jesus really give me a new heart?” Even if we are quarantined we only need to look at the TV to live a very challenging life.  Nouwen says the greatest trap in life is not success, popularity or power; it is self-rejection, doubting who we truly are at the heart of us – the beloved of God. When we believe the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, or define us as a series of chemical reactions, or condemn us to whatever society labels us, then we might be steered any old way.

Johnson and Nouwen have encouraged me to sink into that scene at the Lord’s baptism when God demonstrates how she feels about humans bearing sin and death as he says, “You are my beloved, on you my favor rests.” It is that heart-to heart moment we continue to incarnate as we also come to God as we are in our own time and dare to open our hearts.

Beginning steps toward feeling beloved

you are my beloved son

“There are many other voices, voices that are loud, full of promises and very seductive. These voices say, “Go out and prove that you are worth something.” Soon after Jesus had heard the voice calling him the Beloved, he was led to the desert to hear those other voices. They told him to prove that he was worth love in being successful, popular, and powerful.

—  Henri Nouwen, Return of the Prodigal Son

I have recommended Nouwen’s book many times over the years, especially to many people who struggle to see themselves as the beloved of God. You might sum up their struggle something like this: “That quote seems great but impossible. I haven’t earned it. My discomfort is related to the luxury of it. I am unworthy of something for which I did not work. I’m not saying that in regard to my salvation. I know I cannot work for that. I feel it in regard to the favor.  To declare victory over my need to work for the favor of God seems premature.”

Every human, regardless of their outward struggle in this unjust and unpredictable world, has an inner struggle with being loved – by others, by God and by themselves, usually in that order. I think the end of the struggle often begins with accepting love from another. And many people see accepting God’s love as a logical possibility as a result of human love. The problem with real liberation usually comes with loving ourselves — such love may seem unseemly or downright impossible, given all we know about ourselves.

The sound of genuineness

We may love others like the Lord loves us long before we love ourselves that way. Our first steps into love may be more faking it than making it. But such steps of love are better than no steps.  In Howard Thurman’s famous commencement address to Spelman College in 1980 he said:

You are the only you that has ever lived; your idiom is the only idiom of its kind in all of existence and if you cannot hear the sound of the genuine in you, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.

It is good to be at the beck and call of your mates, your friends and your church. But it is best to answer their call from the genuine, the “I am” of you, the image of God in you, the spiritual gift in you, the conviction of the Holy Spirit in you.

It is good to listen to God’s voice, saving you in the word and work of Jesus, drawing and pushing you toward fullness. But it is best to respond genuinely, not just as an obedient child, but as a friend and partner, a lover.

Nouwen makes a point of reminding us that Jesus went into the wilderness to face the inner voices which told him he was not the one God named Beloved.  He needed that time and space because it takes contemplation to overcome the resistance we feel to genuine self love like God loves us. When I meet people for spiritual direction, their freedom often comes by telling the story of their inner journey. They often see how their past has trapped them and begin to imagine a future path to fullness.

Hate may be a surprising prelude to beloved

We sometimes think our present path is so despicable or hopeless we have a hard time imagining a future of living as God’s beloved, collaborating with our acceptance into the Family. In Jesus and the Disinherited, my favorite reread of 2020, Thurman says,

Hatred, in the mind and spirit of the disinherited, is born out of great bitterness, a bitterness that is made possible by sustained resentment which is bottled up until it distills an essence of vitality, giving to the individual in whom this is happening a radical and fundamental basis for self-realization…From within the intensity of their necessity, they declare their right to exist, despite the judgment of the environment. Hatred makes this sort of profound contribution to the life of the disinherited, because it establishes a dimension of self-realization hammered out of the raw materials of injustice.

I think Thurman would be fine if you related to this truth even if you are not descended from American slaves who still have a lot of glory to hammer out of the raw materials of injustice. It could easily be said that the best elements of Christianity unique to America is their ongoing work. You may or may not share their injustice, but you undoubtedly feel your own share.

I hope we are careful with one another as we help each other navigate to the self love which is often a final hurdle before freedom — the “love your neighbor as yourself” love that means you are beloved enough to love. Hatred of others and even oneself may be a beginning point for some people, but it is a self-defeating end point.

“Hate has no boundaries, and behaviors such as hypervigilance, suspicion, negativity, resentment, and bitterness will eventually spill over into other relationships,” even our relationship with God (see Adensanya). Eventually we need to forgive “the other,” God and ourselves. That’s moving toward “genuine.” Most of us won’t be able to meet such a demand at the beginning of our journey; there is hurt under that hate. We’ll need to be seen and heard, hopefully by a loving other, certainly by God and usually, finally, by ourselves.

Last week Gwen and I watched American Skin, which could serve as a parable for much of what I am trying to say.


The movie is a story in which hate propels an action against injustice, and in which people struggle to find forgiveness instead of vengeance, mutuality instead of constant warfare. It provides scant hope that the system is going to become less violent any time soon. But it beautifully shows how individuals and small groups, like your church, can experience another way. I think hating the “Great Other” of American racism makes sense. But I know loving God and loving my neighbor as myself makes more.

Devalued people devalue others. More tragically, they devalue themselves. They listen to the voices of condemnation and destruction that tell them they must fight for the right to be beloved. Each of us is on a journey toward liberation from that hell of violence with which we often collaborate. If some hater scares us, maybe we should light a candle of hope in their honor. Maybe that tiny spark of self-realization in their hate will grow into glory under God’s loving care. I think such an act of love might meet the definition of what Thurman calls “genuine.”

If we are tired of running into the same victimization that has plagued us for what seems like forever, maybe we can see that fatigue as the last gasp of control before we give up our struggle to be proven worthy and trust in God’s name for us. If we have experienced the love of others and understand the love of God on our behalf in Jesus but still run into our self-condemnation, maybe we can see that experience as a sign we are very close to more of the freedom we crave — at least we see and hear ourselves! Now we can turn into another step of trusting the One who calls each of us, “My beloved child,” and love that child ourselves.

Nonconformity– a doorway to eternity

When the November wind and waves threatened to capsize my little kayak on the Great Egg Harbor, I wondered if I could be taking nonconformity too far. Sunday was not the usual weather for water sports. But I enjoyed it. As Elbert Hubbard said, “Conformists die, but heretics live forever.” As the wind pelted me with spray off the bay, I pondered a weekend full of realizations about how God has opened eternity to me.


Flab rebel

One doorway turns out to be my rebellion against flab. Mind you, I was on a little vacation this past weekend, so I can’t vouch for my present weight. There is almost nothing to eat down-the-shore that is not designed for maximum calorie intake, and I did not search for health-food. But until I get on the scale today, I can report a very successful diet plan that came to fruit last Friday. I called it my “tenya for Kenya” diet. I got the idea that I might lose the last ten pounds I never lose to get to the top of my BMI if I promised myself that for each pound I lost I would get to send $40 to “Kenya”  — a symbol of sub-Saharan Africa (that rhymes with tenya) where deadly hunger is exploding this year.

It seems immoral to weigh more than I need to when others are struggling to stay alive at all! Now that the global downturn has rich people scrambling to preserve their huge wealth from further erosion, they are not as engaged with relief. That alarms me. Vanity is not motivating enough for me; personal health does not move me enough; shame is not even that activating. But I discovered that morality could keep me focused (who knew?). I liked earning my donation with pounds. Even more, I found a lot of joy in finding another way to express my nonconformity practically.

I am a fat heretic. I mean, I am a nonconformist when it comes to the national adoration of food. I don’t usually (like ever) watch morning shows on TV. But on vacation Gwen likes to see if Matt Lauer has hair so she turns on the Today show. It is Thanksgiving week so everything was about food and weight loss. The Today show had a segment on how to eat less interrupted by four minutes of commercials about food – I did not time that, but I don’t think I am exaggerating! It is not easy to be a nonbeliever in eating like a rich person – a person who’s main challenge is to figure out how not to eat too much from the dump truck unloading calories onto their table. Seriously, I like an evening watching the Eagles fumbling around while I eat fried things followed by Dibs followed by caramel corn followed by nachos; throw in some carrot cake and Dr. Pepper to top it off. My usual diet consciousness is drinking Diet Pepsi!

Blab rebel

The other doorway to eternity turned out to be my rebellion against blab (this blog notwithstanding, apparently). Over the weekend I heard from a couple of close evangelical friends who make their livings off being influential writers and speakers. They were excited about their opportunities to be read and heard by large numbers of people. They were doing their thing on large anonymous stages. I love them personally, but I am not always sure about the images they create for themselves (but then, I don’t really know their images). They seemed to be talking about ideas they did not embody and situations they did not inhabit. Even though their message was theoretically Christian and, thus, basically nonconformist, their lives were obviously part and parcel of the media machine that runs so much of what we do. They were an awful lot like the Today show, saying one thing about eating with a medium bent on selling another option.

Even though they are great people, I admit to feeling a little embarrassed by my friends – I seem so small, in comparison, like I have not made much of myself, like my blab machine takes up too-small a share of the airwaves. I had just come from my cell meeting when I met with them, totally jazzed about what suddenly looked like a motley crew of sinful, disabled, foreign, faithless, unsuccessful outcasts. I realized I had never thought of them that way at all, until I started making comparisons with my well-accommodated friends and their tall tales! They’d just spent exciting times with people who could afford to go to conferences and make large donations!

Suddenly, I looked like a heretic again. Resisting the blab machine. Unaware of the latest evangelical stuff. Into unmarketable causes — still smarting over the ill-treatment of Afghan women (and other things I’m often surprised to discover are odd), good friends with recovering addicts, leading a strange little church out of a rented space over the check-cashing store and feeling grateful to survive — not even over eating!

To top it off,  I realized that one of my favorite moments of the week had been enjoying Henri Nouwen’s unusual translation of Romans 12:2, “Do not model yourselves on the behavior of the world around you, but let your behavior change, modeled by your new mind. This is the only way to discover the will of God and know what is good, what it is that God wants, what is the perfect thing to do. Nonconformity, not just for the sake of being myself, or being different, but for being God’s, is a doorway to eternity.