Monday, February 14, 2011

For tough weeks like mine was.

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want;
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters;
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for His name's sake.

Even though I walk through the valley
of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil;
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the
Lord forever.
-Psalm 23

Henri Nouwen, from Out of Solitude:

"Whereas patience is the mother of expectation, it is expectation itself that brings new joy to our lives. Jesus not only made us look at our pains, but also beyond them. "you are sad now, but I shall see you again and your hearts will be full of joy." A man or a woman without hope in the future cannot live creatively in the present. The paradox of expectation indeed is that those who believe in tomorrow can better live today, that those who expect joy to come out of sadness can discover the beginnings of a new life in the center of the old, that those who look forward to the returning Lord can discover him already in their midst.

You know how a letter can change your day. When you watch people in front of the wall of mailboxes, you can see how a small piece of paper can change the expression on a face, can make a curved back straight, and a sullen mouth whistle again. The day might be just as dull as the day before and the work just as tiring. But the letter in your mailbox telling you that someone loves you, that someone is looking forward to meeting you again, that someone needs your presence, or that someone promises to come soon, makes all the difference.

A life lived in expectation is like a life in which we have received a letter, a letter which makes him whom we have misses so much return even earlier than we could imagine. Expectation brings joy to the center of our sadness and the loved one to the heart of our longings. The one who stayed with us in the past and will return to us in the future becomes present to us in that precious moment in which memory and hope touch each other. At that moment we can realize that we can only expect someone because he has already touched us. A student from California [but let's pretend he's from Oregon] who had to leave many of his good friends behind to come to school at the faraway east coast recently said to me: "it was hard to depart, but if the good-bye is not painful, the hello cannot be joyful either." And so his sadness of September became his joy at Christmas time.

Is God present or is he absent? maybe we can say now that in the center of our sadness for his absence we can find the first signs of his presence. And that in the middle of our longings we discover the footprints of the one who has created them. It is in the faithful waiting for the loved one that we know how much he has filled our lives already. Just as the love of a mother for her son can grow while she is waiting for his return, and just as lovers can rediscover each other during long periods of absence, so also our intimate relationship with God can become deeper and more mature while we wait patiently in expectation for his return.

..."In a short time you will no longer see me, and then a short time later you will see me again." We are living in this short time...This is what we express when we take bread and wine in thanksgiving. We do not eat bread to still our hunger or drink wine to quench our thirst. We just eat a little bit of bread and drink a little bit of wine, in the realization that God's presence is the presence of the One who came, but is still to come; who touched our hearts, but has not yet taken all our sadness away. And so when we share some bread and some wine together, we do this not as people who have arrived, but as men and women who can support each other in patient expectation until we see him again. And then our hearts will be full of joy, a joy that no one can take away from us.

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