From Henri Nouwen’s A Spirituality of Living
“We all have wounds…….It is a feeling of loneliness that lurks behind our successes, a feeling of uselessness that hides under all the praise we receive…….that makes us grab onto people and expect from them an affection and love they cannot give. If we want other people to give us something that only God can give, we become a heavy burden.”
Nouwen goes on to say: “I love Rembrandt’s painting The Return of the Prodigal Son. The father holds his child, touches his child, and says, ‘You are my beloved. I’m not going to ask you any questions. Wherever you have gone, whatever you have done, and whatever people say about you, you’re my beloved. You can come home to me whose name is Compassion, whose name is Love.’
Nouwen says, “ If we keep that in mind, we can deal with an enormous amount of success as well as an enormous amount of failure without losing our identity, because our identity is that we are the beloved. Long before our father and mother, our brothers and sisters, our teachers, our church or anyone else touched us in a loving or wounding way —— long before we were rejected by some person or praised by someone else-that voice was there. ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love.’
That love was there before we were born and will be there after we die. A life of fifty, sixty, seventy, or a hundred years is just a little moment in which we have been given time to say, ‘Yes, I love you too.’ ”
Henri Nouwen was a priest theologian/author who toward his later years went to live and minister in a settlement for the mentally challenged.
This quote is from a tiny gem of a book put together from insights from his other books, called A Spirituality of Living.
A granddaughter and a great-grandson graduated from different high schools this weekend. They each beamed with pride as did I. It has been a long and arduous journey for both of them. One suffered the confusion of spoken language that Autism brings and the other the confusion of written language that Dyslexia causes.
They were blessed because they each had caring parents and grand-parents, special teachers and even therapists. But ultimately the challenge was theirs and no one else could do it for them. They made it because they persevered.
I never was sure that the hours I spent trying to help them made anything easier for them, but it formed a bond for me with them that will always keep them in my heart in a deep tender spot soft from tears unshed and I pray that I will always be in theirs, even when I’m no longer here.
Their journey isn’t over and neither are the challenges they face, but their graduation days mark an accomplishment that few can understand. Often it has meant struggling with things that seemed simple to others, so their amazing achievements went unnoticed and unsung. And because their differences set them apart, they often walked alone, unnoticed and unaffirmed.
But those of us that have shared their journey know that while others jumped small hurdles, they climbed mountains to get to the same goals.
We saw and heard the fears, discouragement and frustration they overcame, so we celebrate their achievement as unsung Olympian Medalists in courage, determination and perseverance.
Life is a school where tests are not about passing or failing, but are a learning tool instead. Loneliness is a universal experience meant to fuel a lifelong quest for God. And the vulnerabilities of those we love open us to prayer. Then the joy of loving leads us from just crying “Help!” to celebrations of “Thanks” and “Praise.” Lack of money challenges us to learn to live by God’s priorities. Loss of health brings us to depend on Him. The old are freed from caring what others think; they see that only God’s opinion matters. And recess comes when once we admit we’ve passed our peak, we’re free to just be comic relief.
At first, it seemed as if God walked
through the garden of my life
on velvet kitten paws,
gifting me with fleet impression
of brushing soft caress,
leaving feather light prints
in the tender earth
of my spirit.
But, in later times, God climbed
the granite mountain of my will
using painful stake and hobnail boots
to gain each foothold,
bringing about His kingdom
through the thundering voice
Then recently, I sensed God lost,
absent on Sabbatical
of undetermined length,
leaving only fading echoes
in my memory.
Until at last, in desert night
and aching loneliness,
I faced my emptiness
and discovered Her within.