I begin the Lenten season with gusto. Perhaps gusto is not the right word, because it’s more like a settling in — a settling into the rhythms of 5:30AM and Henri Nouwen and prayer. I am not so good at this getting-up-and-reading. My eyes cross. The words bleed together and I struggle to read through again, hoping this time to catch the nuance, the challenge, the peace.
I attempt to bring some of this contemplation, this observation, to my 8th grade homeroom. They get better at listening and at least looking at me as I try to spin words that reach them. Prayer requests usually revolve around upcoming tests, but once in awhile, I am struck by their depth of care for this hurting world.
We drive home from Maine and the sun is bright pink and as I catch it between the metal arms of the bridge, I feel sadness. Sunday is over, the next week spreads before me, and I focus more on the setting of the sun than the the brilliance of it against the gray sky.
I take a picture.
It doesn’t even begin to capture the beauty, and I wish for once I could bask in glory instead of mourn an ending.
I hear stories of birth – -moments that should be joy and laughter — but instead end in deep pain. But Miss Hawkins, I didn’t think that happened anymore. I didn’t think mothers died. But they do and they leave behind babies and husbands and mourners on multiple continents.
I try to navigate being a Christ-follower and being a student-leader and sometimes waking in the middle of the night with the secret voice that says Just run. Nobody needs you anyway. Italy still looks good, and think of the writing you could do. You’ll never save all of them, so run away and stop trying.
Then I wake up at 5:30. I grind the coffee beans, put the tea kettle on, settle in under my nine-patch quilt.
I read Henri Nouwen, a passage from the Bible, a prayer. I tell God in full honesty that I do not know how anyone gets through this life without Him.
I drive to work in the sunlight across the marsh. I pour another cup of coffee from a co-worker’s ever-full coffeepot. I ask for prayer. I smile at everyone.
This, I guess, is the place I should be. This place of “What would I do without you, Lord?” I know that it is in this place that good work is done.
So many terrible things happen every day that we start wondering whether the few things we do ourselves make any sense…Here the word “call” becomes important. We are not called to save the world, solve all problems, and help all people. But we each have our own unique call, in our families, in our work, in our world. We have to keep asking God to help us see clearly what our call is and to give us the strength to live out that call with trust. Then we will discover that our faithfulness to a small task is the most healing response to the illnesses of our time.
– Henri Nouwen
5 Replies to “Henri Nouwen and a Broken Lent”
I needed to read this today. Thank you, friend, for being as bad at/desperate for lent and rhythms as I am. You give me hope for small triumphs – for the long road. Discipline is hard, you remind me of its beauty.
Thank you, Julianne. I’m still no good with disciplines (and part of me thinks I was better at them before I hit puberty…) and it’s beautiful to watch/experience growth but it’s also painful.
Beautiful, sweet Catherine. Thank you.