Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Ministry of Hospitality To the Lonely

Touch your own loneliness
And there you may be
Able to accommodate another’s loneliness
So it’s hope they see.
“Ministers who have come to terms with their own loneliness and are at home in their own houses are hosts who offer hospitality to their guests.”
— Henri J.M. Nouwen (1932–1996)
LONELINESS is a great and untapped ally, if only we can be honest in our lack. The greatest thing about loneliness is it’s something we all suffer. It therefore connects us intrinsically with each other and our own persons. As soon as we connect these ideals of lack, we determine that the upper limits of humanity are reached in simply being who we are – creatures of heaven subsisting, but for a time, here, on planet Earth.
After Earth all will make sense. It will make sense again as it has always made sense.
In our loneliness – in all its myriad forms – we will suffer as we will. But if we take that suffering as assumed, we have something for all other persons to cling to, if or when they need it. This is nothing ab0ut dependence – the other person on us or we on them. No, it’s about a safe haven where no pretence survives and connection flows between two beings made in the image of God.
Wherever there is truth, there is safety. That’s because in the truth is grace. Because loneliness is an existential truth – that all who exist suffer loneliness – it is an abiding fact of life that offers goodness, not horror; hope, not despair.
In itself, loneliness is the answer, for loneliness is the invitation to entry upon the Divine. God meets us there. There we will recognize God.
The best ministers offer not their skills, their knowledge, their gifting, and their experience, but, according to Nouwen, they offer their very selves. They are vessels of comfort in their own beings. They afford those who call into their home, lodging, free of board and keep, for space is determined on the eternal need. No material thing comes close.
Being of this modus operandi, there is no reason for self-doubt on either side – the minister or the ministered-to. There is every assurance afforded by simple authenticity – when two can be one together, invoking the eternal space where God is mysteriously present. Two, in this way, transcend loneliness, for they have overcome, in the moment, every worldly need.
***
Loneliness is a true ally if we can accommodate a new truth: loneliness connects us all. Tap into loneliness with another human being and see what God does!
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

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