Over the past week I have been overwhelmed by the response to my last blog post. I have loved connecting with many of you and have been honored to hear your stories about the difficulties you face as you wait for the next step or that thing you long for. I am so encouraged! Thank you for sharing your hearts.
I have been slowly (as per usual) working through Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life by Henri Nouwen. And I am amazed at how each chapter is mirroring and in turn challenging me as I process this whole idea of waiting. Nouwen writes that this”waiting for God is a really inhuman or superhuman task unless we realize that we do not have to wait alone.” Be it our friends, our family, our church or some other group we belong to, our community is meant to support us, and vice versa.
Nouwen continues: “The community of faith offers the protective boundaries within which we can listen to our deepest longings, not to indulge in morbid introspection, but to find our God to whom they point. In the community of faith we can listen to our feelings of loneliness, to our desires for an embrace or a kiss, to our sexual urges, to our cravings for sympathy, compassion or just a good word; also to our search for insight and to our hope for companionship and friendship. In the community of faith we can listen to all these longings and find the courage, not to avoid them or cover them up, but to confront them in order to discern God’s presence in their midst. There we can affirm each other in our waiting and also in the realization that in the center of our waiting the first intimacy with God is found.”
Did you hear that? In the center of our waiting is where we find intimacy with God. In our pain and confusion, in our suffering and questioning, that’s where we find God. I am almost always looking for answers to my questions of “why” and “when” and when they don’t come my automatic response is to question if God loves me at all.
But one thing is clear. The way of Jesus is the way of love, yes, but it is also the way of suffering. My illusions often tell me that life, especially one where God is by my side, should all turn out good. I think the first problem with that is the illusion of God being by my side. In my head, I’ve put Him next to me. He’s on my side so He should be rooting for me and working to give me the things I want, like some sort of cosmic cheerleader and Santa Claus all rolled into one.
That’s not the way of Jesus. If we are indeed walking together, shouldn’t He be the one leading? Shouldn’t I be joining Him in what He’s doing, not the other way around? He’s not on my side, I’m on His. And while the way of Jesus is the way of love, the way is intertwined with pain.
I have a hard time remembering that I am following someone who was rejected by most. My homogenized, watered down version of Jesus seems to look a little more like a Care Bears cartoon than someone who wept and prayed in anguish knowing He was about the be ridiculed, beaten and killed. That is the Jesus I claim to follow. Why would I ever think that suffering would not be part of the package?
I know in my head that this is the case, but some part of me is continually surprised when its actually happens. What do you mean I can’t have what I want? Are you telling me there will be pain and disappointment? Uuuuummm… duh!
But it’s in this pain and disappointment I am invited into relationship. I stop, let down my guard and in a moment of vulnerability, I look around to see that I am not alone. Standing around me are others who have walked a similar journey. They reach out their hand to me, helping me stand a little stronger and I do the same for another. Together we find that God is in our midst. And as my mind is quieted and the world around me seems to slow, I begin to hear a little more clearly, what it is that His heart beats for.
Whose are the hands that are helping you stand a little stronger?