Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Gift of Friendship - Shepherd

Henri Nouwen is a writer who succeeds in expressing thoughts that struggle for articulation in the depth of my being. I receive his daily meditations on my computer.

Recently in one of them he awakened a yearning in me. He spoke about how when we accept that through Christ we are reconciled with God we become messengers of reconciliation. That’s what I long to be. I so much want to bring peace in a world characterized by strife. Nouwen does not pretend this is easy. His December 27th devotional thought was essential to the work of reconciliation is a nonjudgmental presence, arising from practicing compassion. Completely counter-cultural, this non-judgmental stance is born out of a deep spiritual life – a life attuned to the Spirit of Jesus.

On December 28th his message was about being safe places for others. This thought appeals to me, as it is what Christ does for me. Creating safe places is costly. It means risking vulnerability, and again refusing to judge or condemn. It demands that kind of humility. Yet it leads to profound reconciliation, as we honestly admit our need of one another.

As well as ushering in reconciliation, vulnerability produces fruits that make success pale in value. Henri Nouwen created a statement that I find takes me to new depths in understanding of the sacred. In the Daily Meditation for January 4, 2009 he is quoted, “A child is the fruit conceived in vulnerability, community is the fruit born through shared brokenness, and intimacy is the fruit that grows through touching one another’s wounds.”

Reflecting on these meditations prepared me for the thoughts that appeared on my screen this morning that spoke of the value of friendship. Perhaps this is the greatest gift we can offer to one another.

I am part of a group of eight friends who live in different places across this country. As often as we can, we meet together for the purpose of praying for each other. We each take a turn, sharing with the others our deepest joys and concerns. Then the group gathers round the friend, who has bared her soul, to pray. It is a profound experience of creating a safe sacred space for each other, of experiencing reconciliation on a profound level and of knowing we are loved.

This year we have chosen one particular day in the month when we all fast for one of the group. Today, I have been the object of the prayer and fasting of my sisters, my friends. In the depths of my being, I have felt loved, by God through the caring of my friends. I understand a little bit more about the incredible words of Jesus who said we are not His servants but His friends. Wow!

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