I’ve just finished listening to a reading of a message by Henri Nouwen once again. I recommend it highly, and recommend returning to it several times. It’s a reminder for each of us of the importance we approach the ministry we are involved in together.
Nouwen reminds us to begin with Solitude, then Community, and then Ministry. To quote Nouwen: “So often in ministry, I have wanted to do it by myself. If it didn’t work, I went to others and said, “Please!” searching for a community to help me. If that didn’t work, maybe I’d start praying.”
He points us to the story in Luke chapter 6 which contains three main times: evening, morning, and afternoon. We are urged/led by Jesus to spend time in God’s presence before anything, a time where we exist in the identity He gives us as “my Beloved”. It’s a great place to be, in solitude, and just allow God to pour that identity over you as one who is Loved by God. Meditating on a few words from the Gospel, or simply being silent, breathing before the throne.
And it’s having that identity firmly planted in you, that moves you to seeing that same identity in others, as Loved by God. That moves one “Beloved” to desire to relate to another “Beloved” as we respond by our lives to God in a statement of “We Love you too”. And as we form communities (marriages, families, churches, other groups) of Beloved’s, our identities continue to come solely from our loved-ness. We are able to let go of anything else. “He is my shepherd, I shall not want.” No desire for praise/approval from man, or worldly comforts, etc.
As we are freed toward Love, Compassion, Mercy, etc. (Kingdom Living); our Love infinitely compels us to reveal this “being loved by God” to others. In word, in deed, both infinitely sacrificial, and infinitely rewarding; we find ourselves filled by His Spirit, and involved in Ministry that helps communicate God’s Love to this creation, and these who are created in His image.
And it all began by spending time apart. Away from busy-ness. Away from distraction. Not awaiting some mystical voice to come calling on a rushing wind. But simply aware of Words already spoken, and being spoken through all of creation: I am Loved by God.