“More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems.
“My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets. It is difficult not to have plans, not to organize people around an urgent cause and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress.
“But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own and to let them know with words, handshakes and hugs that you do not simply like them- but truly love them.” – Henri Nouwen, ¡Gracias!
I’m not sure if it’s “more and more,” but it’s clear to me that some of the holiest of times in ministry come too infrequently. The most holiest of times are the most intimate, when I am entering into the life of those around me, when I’m breaking bread, not leading communion…when I’m listening, not teaching…when I’m participating in life, not planning for it…when I’m celebrating successes and mourning losses…when I’m connecting most deeply with those around me…when, I feel, my life is most “incarnational.”
I’m not sure if it’s “more and more,” but I know the list of things I have to accomplish in a day of ministry can seem to pull me away from things that matter most. Yes, I know there are things which just must be done. There are tasks that just have to be accomplished. There are reports to file. There are web pages to update. There are meetings to be held. And I do them. But, at the end of the day, I ask myself where have I connected with those around me? Where is it that I have truly loved? Perhaps that’s why I really go to the coffee shops…
I’m not sure if it’s “more and more” but I am feeling a great need…a great pastoral need to love persons deeply and to share life with them. I feel a need to give myself up in love and not hold back. And I feel a need for our church to do that as well…our church which has increasing bills to pay, ministries to plan, work teams to house, worship services to conduct. How do we love…more than “plan to love”? How do we participate in a ministry of presence…knowing that the stuff of life and business and work still happens around us and in us?
More and more, deep inside of me, I feel a call to love those whom God has given me…those whom he has placed near me, or placed me near them.
And the ironic thing is that the meetings, the planning, the work of the church is the way in which I go about doing this.
This…is how I know to love.