It would be years before I came across that reading again and the reminder of a prayer I lost the hope to pray. A prayer that God answered in a way I could never have imagined. My dear ones had not only made peace, but now laughed together and cared for one another.
If you are like me, the mere suggestion that we might say no to a request, particularly in the church, raises all sorts of objections. “I can’t do that – people are counting on me”, we might say. Yet what if this is but a mask? What if our refusal to say no is keeping us from going deeper in our relationship with the Lord? Like Mary sitting at the Lord’s feet, what if Jesus wants us to say no to other demands? What if Jesus is calling people to count on him and not on us?
The questions we ask amid our discouragements are incredibly important. They point us to the where Jesus calls us to a deeper experience of himself. This means that the place of your discouragement, along with the question connected to it, may be a place of dislodging, and a time where you can grow more deeply into the person that Jesus is calling us to be.
Jesus calls us to love our enemies, but frankly, I don’t want to. My enemy is my enemy for a reason. Either the individual has hurt me in some way, insulted me and put me down, or they represent a course of action to which I am diametrically opposed. I don’t want to love my enemy; I want to put them in their place. I want to ridicule them and reject them. I want them to experience the hurt and discouragement they have brought into my life.
Are you worried about something? Go and pray. Give everything over to God. Let it all go. Trust God enough to give God everything. That takes a lot of trust. Whatever it is in your life right now, give it to God and actually trust God with it. Don’t let it be yours anymore. Pray that prayer.
We can live our spiritual lives under a spirit of duty and demand. Our spiritual practices become burdens we must undergo, activities to begrudgingly plod through. When we live this way, our spirituality feels lifeless, and we can’t help but feel condemned. No matter how hard we try, we rarely perform our practices a perfectly as we would like, or as we believe they should be performed.
Henri Nouwen is one of the authors I read a lot from. His words plumb the depths of the spiritual life in profound ways. So, when I started dreaming of my parish's Lenten program for 2022, I knew that I wanted to structure it around the works of Henri Nouwen.
Each time my wife and I stepped out of the house, I’d ask to how far she believed she could walk. We developed our own lingo. One day her goal would be “The red door”; the next day, “the black fence.” These mini-milestones marked her progression; they served as guides, leading her on.
Praying in love is not about masking feelings or denying discouragement. In Christ, God entered the fullness of humanity. This means that it is the fullness of our humanity that is offered in our prayer.
Suddenly, without notice, the ugliness of life came and stopped me in my tracks. I felt unable to pray, the words simply would not come. I felt alone and abandoned. I pictured that great cloud of witnesses as eerily silent.