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.
Reality: Law is a transitory solution. Law was needed for humanity to survive long enough to grow past survival of the fittest into living in community. (Sumerian Code 2100-2050 BC; Babylon’s Code of Hammurabi circa 1760 BC; Hebrew Torah 1330 – now; Twelve tables of Roman Law 450 BC)
But law, by its set in stone nature, becomes a tool of condemnation, a way of labeling and separating people even within a community. Law protects people and property, but does not nourish the spirit needed to create a community of love.
Paul says, “Only in Christ is the veil of condemnation (by the law) removed.” Without knowing in heart and mind that we are loved unconditionally, we have no way of getting free of the need to earn and prove our value, often at the expense of others. Since in reality “All fall short of perfection” (the glory of God), no matter what we accomplish or how good we become…..it is never enough. Generally, this leads to settling for believing that we are “better than” another person, another group, another race, another nationality, even another religion. Instead of recognizing our shared humanity, we see people as the “Other” in order to feel good about ourselves. (Pharisees)
But when freed by recognizing the glory (love) of God in Jesus, we begin to become transformed into His image by God’s Spirit within us.
When we acknowledge Jesus as both our Redeemer and as our Lord, we have found the source of grace to grow free to be servants of all. If we continue to go to that well of grace there is less and less need to outperform, have power over, label, or reject others in order to feel better about ourselves. Unfortunately, it’s a big “IF.”
We are all imperfect and all loved as we are. As we grow in our belief in that, we realize “That we are not competent in ourselves. Our competence comes from God.” We do not have to prove anything. Jesus proved with His life and death that we are of infinite value, as servants not only of God, but of ALL others. (Radical inclusivity)
The gospel displays the love (glory) of Christ, who is the image of God. Christ who did not cling to power or importance, but walked in our skin and learned from others, and grew in wisdom and openness to God within, but also accepted failure, rejection, pain, and death for our sake, so we would know we don’t have to earn, win, achieve, anything in our short span here on earth.
All we are called to do is to admit our limits, focus on God’s love for us expressed in Christ and pass it on in whatever ways God gives us.