Moving from Solitude to Community to Ministry:  Solitude

Monday’s Meditation –  ‘Moving from solitude to community to ministry’. by Henri Nouwen.

When we read the story of Jesus in Luke 6:12-19 we can see the way that Jesus did ministry.

  • At night –  Solitude with God
  • Morning – Second community with others
  • Afternoon – Third ministry with his companions

Today on Sunday Everyday we will be looking at Solitude with God.

This is taken from an article published in the Leadership Journal by Henri Nouwen.

Copywrite Henri Nouwen Spring 1995.

Solitude is being with God and God alone.  Is there any space for that in your life?

Why is it so important that you are with God and God alone on the mountain top? It’s important because it’s the place win which you can listen to the voice of the One who calls you the beloved.  To pray is to listen to the One who calls you “my beloved daughter”, “my beloved son”, “my beloved child”.  To pray is to let that voice speak to the centre of your being, to your guts, and let that voice resound in your whole being.

Happy in the mountains

Who am I?  I am the beloved.

That’s the voice that Jesus heard when he came out of the Jordan River: “You are my beloved; on you my favour rests”.

Jesus says to you and to me that we are loved as he is loved.  That same voice is there for you.  When you are not claiming that voice, you cannot walk freely in this world.

Jesus listened to that voice all the time, and he was able to walk right through life.  People were applauding him, laughing at him; praising him and rejecting him; calling ‘Hosanna!’ and calling ‘Crucify’.

But in the midst of that Jesus knew one thing – I am the beloved; I am Gods favourite one.  He clung to that voice.

There are many other voice speaking — loudly; “Prove that you are the beloved?”  “ Prove that you are something?”  “Prove that you have a contribution to make?”  “Do something relevant?”  “Be a success!”

These voices are so strong in this world.  These were the voices Jesus heard right after he heard “You are my beloved”.  Another voice said, “Prove that you are the beloved, change these stones into bread.  Be sure you’re famous.  Jump from the temple, and you will be known.  Grab some power so you have real influence.  Don’t you want some influence:  Isn’t that why you came?”

Jesus said, “No, I don’t have to prove anything.  I am already the beloved”.

I love Rembrandt’s painting ‘The Return of the Prodigal Son’.

Rembrandts Return of the prodigal

Rembrandts Return of the Prodigal

The father holds his son, holds his daughter, and touches his son and his daughter 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 are my beloved.  I hold you safe in my embrace.  I touch you.  I hold you safe under my wings.  You can come home to me whose name is compassionate, whose name is love.

If you keep that in mind you can deal with an enormous amount success as well as an enormous amount of failure without losing your identity, because your identity is that you are the beloved.  Long before your father and mother, your brothers and sisters, your teachers, your church, or any people touched you in a loving as well as in a wounded way – long before you were rejected by some person or praised by somebody else — that voice has been there always.  “I have loved you with an everlasting love”.  That love is there before you were born and will be there after you die.

A life of fifty, sixty, seventy, or a hundred years is just a little moment in which you can say, “Yes I love you too”.  God has become so vulnerable, so little, so dependent in a manger and on a cross and is begging us, “Do you love me?  Do you love me?  Do you really love me?”

That is where ministry starts, because your freedom is anchored in claiming your belovedness.  That allows you to go into this world and touch people, heal them, speak with them, and make them aware that they are beloved, chosen, and blessed.  When you discover your belovedness by God, you see the belovedness of other people and call that forth.  Its an incredible mystery of God’s love that the more you know how deeply you are loved, the more you will see how deeply your sisters and your brothers in the human family are loved.

Now this is not easy.  Jesus spent the night in prayer.  That’s a picture of the fact that prayer is not something you always feel. It’s not a voice you always hear with these ears, it’s not always an insight that suddenly comes to you in your little mind.  (Gods heart is greater than the human heart, God’s mins is greater than the human mind, and God’s light is so great that it might blind you and make you feel like you’re in the night).

tablet computer on boat

But you have to pray.  You have to listen to the voice who calls you the beloved, because otherwise you will run around begging for affirmation, for praise, fro success.  And then you are not free.

Oh, if we could sit for just one half hour a day doing nothing except taking a simple word from the gospel and putting it in front of us — say, “The Lord is my shepherd there is nothing I want.”  Say it three times, and we know that it’s not true because we want many things.  Thats exactly why we’re so nervous.

But if we keep saying the truth, the real through — “The Lord is my shepherd there is nothing I shall want” — and let that truth descend from our mind into our heart, gradually those words are written on the walls of our inner holy place.  That becomes the space in which we can receive our colleagues and our work, our family and our friends, and the people whom we will meet during the day.

The trouble is, as soon as you sit and become quiet, you think; ‘Oh, I forgot this.  I should call my friend.  Later on I’m going to see him’.

Your inner life is like a banana tree filled with monkeys jumping up and down.

It’s not easy to sit and trust that in solitude God will speak to you — not as a magical voice but that he will let you know something gradually over the years.  And in that word from God you will find the inner place from which to live your life.

Solitude is where spiritual ministry begins.  Thats where Jesus listened to God.  That’s where we listen to God.

Sometimes I think of life as a big wagon wheel with many spokes.  In the middle is the hub.  Often in ministry it looks like we are running around the rim trying to reach everybody.  But God says, “Start in the hub; live in the hub.  Then you will be connected with all the spokes, and you wont have to run so fast”.

This is taken from an article published in the Leadership Journal by Henri Nouwen.

Copywrite Henri Nouwen Spring 1995.

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Initially written for a Jewish friend, Life of the Beloved has become Henri Nouwen’s greatest legacy to Christians around the world. This sincere testimony of the power and invitation of Christ is indeed a great guide to a truly uplifting spiritual life in today’s world.

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