Nouwen wrote as he was working with mental disabled folks in L'arche Daybreak community, he could see the sorrow in their lives and ultimately it lead him to deal with his own sorrow.
He laid out four of his sorrows.
- The unfulfilled desire of an adolescent to be loved.
- The need for affirmation as young adult
- The haunting sense that life is not being fulfilled
- The sense of grief over the loss of parents
As he laid out his own sorrows and wounds upon the soul, I began wondering if those are not most people's sorrows. Are they that universal? Then I began thinking that Nouwen struggled with these. In the world spirituality, he was the king, but he had these deep wounds. I have been reflecting upon these wounds and I am beginning to realize that these might be all of our wounds, including me.
I recall the stories of people who I loved and served, sitting in living rooms or across dinner tables. Listening to the stories and when we have got close the sorrow is poured out. I can recall a friend who had much wealth but lost it when her husband mismanaged the finances, her in-laws despised her and she as a young adult lacked affirmation she needed.
I hear stories of adults who are 20, 30, or 40 years away from being in their parent's home. They can still recall moments when parents failed to show love and affection. Those moments still shape them.
The fear and loss of parents. I hear stories of middle aged folks coming to terms with what the loss of a parent means. It means that they are now the elder's of the family and they have also lost the parent who brought them to life.
Lack of meaning in life. I recall 102 year old Kathryn who wondered why God put her on earth and if she was of any use. I listen to my friend who wonders if his job is what he is called to do.
Within all of these, I am beginning to hear my own stories.
Playing football not because I really wanted to, but because I wanted the affirmation that a letter jacket brought.
As a young adult fresh to the ministry wanting to be respected for being creative, clever, and thoughtful. How long would it be before folks came to me seeking advice?
Moments when I rush from appointment to another wandering if what I am doing as a minsiter is making a difference. Will my denomination still be here when I end my ministry? Is my work damaging my family?
As I watch my grandparents die and my in-laws and parents age, I have a sense of sadness. I ponder what my role will be.
As Nouwen asked, "Can you drink of this cup?" I don't know if I can, but the taste of sorrow is sometimes upon my lips. But, I remember that there is no Jerusalem without a Babylon. There is no return without exile. There is no resurrection without death. There is no redemption without my sin. So, I drink the cup, not because I am able...I drink because I desire to taste the goodness of God, there in our sorrow is God's goodness?
Where are the places of your sorrow?
But, I have faith in Jesus that these deep wounds in my soul, the sorrow filling my cup is not the whole story. I realize that I have today and that if I let go of the pain and embrace the moment, I am free from it in only as much as I am willing to let it go.
Are you willing to be free from the past by embracing the present?