At one of our team meetings a few months ago, Emily presented a quote from Henri Nouwen’s Making All Things New as part of her devotional “Focusing Thought”. To be honest, I don’t remember what quote she read, but I do remember thinking, “I need to read the rest of that book.” Now, a few months later, I have finally read it and there were a few things that really struck me…
One thing that Nouwen wrote about has been a theme that I have experienced in my conversations with church people (laity and leadership) as well as in my own personal experiences with VP3 processes, both as facilitator and participant, in my own church.
Loneliness is without doubt one of the most widespread diseases of our time. It affects not only retired life but also family life, neighborhood life, school life, and business life. It causes suffering not only in elderly people but also in children, teenagers, and adults. It enters not only prisons but also private homes, office buildings, and hospitals. It is even visible in the diminishing interaction between people on the streets of our cities. Out of all this pervading loneliness many cry, ‘is there anyone who really cares? Is there anyone who can take away my inner sense of isolation? Is there anyone with whom I can feel at home?’
It is this paralyzing sense of separation that constitutes the core of much human suffering (Nouwen, 32).
Society is filled with lonely people. I know there are countless articles and blogs written on the perils of our technological, “social media society” that is both infinitely more connected while, at the same time, more socially isolated than ever before.
My point is not to sing that same tune.
My point is that we, as the church, should be different…
Unfortunately though, we fall into the same rhythm as the rest of society.
My hope is that we, as God’s church, may be able to create a new current of authentic community. I know “authentic community” has been a buzz term in churches for years, however, I feel we have missed our great opportunity…
Community has little to do with mutual compatibility. Similarities in educational background, psychological make-up, or social status can bring us together, but they can never be the basis for community. Community is grounded in God, who calls us together, and not in the attractiveness of people to each other (Nouwen, 82-83).
We have been so focused on creating opportunities for people to connect that we have neglected what (who) truly unites us as one.
My experience has shown that true, authentic community occurs when we place God in the center of a table surrounded by people who are hungering and thirsting for something more. I have seen how The Journey has helped create a place and an opportunity for a group of very different people to unite around our God. Through my Journey groups, I have seen and experienced God’s love, grace, mercy, compassion, discipline, refining, transformation…
How do we overcome this new kind of pervasive loneliness that, at first glance, doesn’t actually seem like loneliness?
We gather around God’s table with others who may or may not be anything like us in
any way, except for the fact that we have all come to the same table with a similar desire to get to know more fully the One who sits in the center.