“One of the main tasks of theology is to find words that do not divide but unite, that do not create conflict but unity, that do not hurt but heal.” – Henri Nouwen
I’ve been reading a lot of Nouwen lately. I’m not sure what’s been drawing me to him, but his writing is great. When I can’t find the energy to open my bible… I open his books. I delve into his journey and his discoveries.
This quote is one I keep coming back to. I’ve underlined, highlighted, circled, you know it– I’ve done it. Maybe it’s because I don’t feel that unity. Maybe it’s because I don’t feel the healing.
Our church has been so divided and torn up by the social justice issues that seem to continually plague our society. It breaks my heart to see people who are just called to love and offer peace to their neighbor, up in arms about people and borders and possessions.
What if, instead of focusing on the things that make us different, we focus on the things that unite us What if, instead of letting fear be a blocker of joy, we let joy eradicate fear?
I know this is easier said than done. I know that changes to systematic approaches and problems take time. But it starts with individuals. It starts with you. And it starts with me.
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This may seem off topic, but let me just tell you that October’s have always been my favorite month.
The soft feel of summertime grass beneath my feet while brisk autumn wind plays with my hair. It’s a magical month, a time of beginning and cleansing and vulnerability. A time of “in between” and “not quite”. I love to live within those grey areas.
This year, though, I’m not finding myself excited for October. Instead, I’m wishing it would flood by quickly and move out of my life. It carries pain this year, carries memories I don’t care to relive– in fact, I’m working on rewriting them.
I’m hoping that October can become a month of wonder again for me. I’m tired of feeling lost and unfixable. I’m tired of putting on a brave face as the day gets closer and closer and passes me by.
I am reminded of the lyrics from one of my favorite gospel songs, one that I tie to this time of year especially.
“Lord I will lift my eyes to the hills knowing my help is coming from you. Your peace you give me in times of the storm.“
I’ll admit that this seems impossible some days. Lifting my arms in praise is hard when life feels heavy and dark.
Peace escapes me and if I’m honest, I don’t seek it when I should. I don’t seek it when life is overwhelming. I don’t lift my eyes to the hills… Instead, I turn away. I close my Bible. I isolate myself.
This is the opposite of what God wants for us. This is the opposite of what our heart needs in times of the storm.
I fought off the demons by myself for far too long. The best thing I ever did was open up to another person about the struggles I had, about the difficulty I had with getting out of bed, the anxiety I felt every time I had to step out into public places, the isolation that came with being a gay Christian. The best thing I ever did was go to counseling and be truthful about the things I deal with, to accept the need for medication to become myself again, to learn ways to cope when emotions take over too much.
As much as I joke about and make fun of community, it so necessary and needed. Right now, I’m in a middle ground where I don’t really fit into any community around me. It’s hard and if I’m being truthful, I could try a bit harder. Invest a bit more. Search a little wider.
This month and season of my life feels long and endless. But like the Israelites in the desert, God is handing me the Manna and strength I need for the day and teaching me to trust He will deliver again tomorrow. Because He always does. Tomorrow is a gift and promise of His faithfulness.
You don’t have to hurt alone. You don’t need to feel divided. Find your people. Pour into them. Be there, in person, for them in times of joy and sorrow. Find unity. Seek out healing.
People really are the greatest gift of all.