“What is my poverty?”

(photograph: Wooden sculpture of the Virgin at Calvary, 15th C. Flanders/The Gruuthuse Museum (adjacent to the Church of Our Lady) Bruges, Belgium/ Julie Cook/ 2011)

August 18–Daily reading
Our Poverty, God’s Dwelling Place
How can we embrace poverty as a way to God when everyone around us wants to become rich?
Poverty has many forms.
We have to ask ourselves, “What is my poverty?”
Is it lack of money, lack of emotional stability, lack of a loving partner,
lack of security, lack of safety, lac of self-confidence?
Each human being has a place of poverty.
That’s the place where God wants to dwell!
“How blessed are the poor,” Jesus says (Matthew 5:3).
This means that our blessing is hidden in our poverty.
We are so inclined to cover up our poverty and ignore it that we often miss the opportunity to discover God, who dwells in it.
Let’s dare to see our poverty as the land in which our treasure is hidden.

Henri J.M. Nouwen
Bread for the Journey

I was so taken by this entry from August 18th, in my Henri Nouwen daily devotional regarding poverty. When I think of poverty, I immediately think of a lack of food, a lack of shelter, lack of income, a lack of housing…I think of people who are struggling with the basics just to live and survive—
I don’t often think of the more intrinsic issues when I think of poverty.

Why is that?

Is it because of our Government’s defining of poverty, which seems based on income, or the lack thereof?
Is it because when we see people sleeping on park benches or in cardboard boxes in the middle of our urban world we equate that with Poverty?

According to Henri Nouwen, we all have areas of, or issues with, poverty.

That was/ is a powerful revelation for me.

Just because someone may have a secure job, a steady source of income, all of which insures the purchasing of food, clothing and shelter, which are met or are even exceeded, does not make them immune to poverty.
Just because someone has a nice home, a nice car, nice clothes does not exempt them fro Poverty.

Perhaps it is an aching heart, a void in one’s life, ill health, isolation, fear…all are forms of poverty. Places within our very being that find us “in need of”…

But there in those secret, or obvious, places of need dwells the Divine—our God, who seeks to fill the voids, the lacking, the needs…there, in the void, is the healing.

But first we must admit the void in order to begin experiencing the healing, the blessing, the Grace.

May I examine those areas of poverty in my own life rather than ignore them or deny their existence. May I find that healing Grace. May we all recognize the empty areas, the void within, our areas of need and find our God dwelling within…..

7 comments on ““What is my poverty?”

  1. Val says:

    I meet the definition of poverty by United States government standards.


    But you know what I know about Mother Teresa’s teachings on spiritual poverty.

    Poverty is everywhere, even in our affluence.

    One of the Christian traditions I embrace easily is social justice. It is the best thing in the world that it doesn’t matter if the world loves you and wants you or not — God loves you and wants you despite the poverty.

    • You’re right Val—and Mother Teresa has been teaching me this for a long time…
      The sun came out today for a bit, it was nice to see it!! I hope your heat wave will dissipate soon.
      We are still pretty much covered with gray, but the sun made a small visit today…however only fleeting 🙂 but the temps are now back to summer time temps …never a good balance with this thing called weather!!

  2. Lynda says:

    It is from our poverty that we are able to understand and minister to each other as we meet others in their poverty as well. However, it takes humility to recognize and accept that we do have areas of poverty in our lives.

    • Lynda you are so right. Humility is huge but so fought over within ourselves. Our society, and our egos both scorn humility. I think I was so struck by how Fr Nouwen expressed poverty as being poverty of the soul–I’ve always understood loss and void, as well as state of “less than” and lacking…but I never looked at it as a being a “poverty” and of that being a poverty of the soul per se–plain and simple. I’ve learned much about humility from my studies of Mother Teresa, as well as just from the lives of some very wonderful and humble friends—but this passage the other day really spoke to me about how I actually fight to deny God a dwelling place in my own soul–that’s hard to imagine that I would/ could deny my Father …as I do fight to either ignore or rid myself of these intrinsic poverties—of which I am ripe to the core –full of such…
      The embracing of Poverty ,as a very real part of our beings, is something our Western Culture is not comfortable with at all.
      Thank you for your kindness and for your wise counsel through the comments—your comments are blessings to me
      much love to you—julie

      • Val says:

        I can’t remember which of his books it was in, but James Martin, S.J. also has a good word on poverty when talking about Jesuit vows, though his word on chastity was beyond brilliant. It might’ve been in The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life (a worthy read whatever the case).

  3. nonfatlatte says:

    Excellent! Sounds like a good devotional.

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