The Tree That Stands

Henry Nouwen made a fascinating point when he spoke of the spiritual movement from isolation to solitude.

We spend much of our lives seeking connection.  At times that connection appears to be deeply ego driven.  The “I” needs the “you” because “you” complete “ME.”  While no doubt such words, when heard from a beloved, are indeed flattering; they are also dangerous.

The clinging, ego driven, co-dependent love will not win the day because at its core it remains fundamentally transactional.  Therefore it is a far cry from the love that Jesus calls us to.

The work moving towards the kind of unconditional love Jesus calls us to is incredibly difficult.  For me, to make church ‘pretty’, ‘easy’, ‘fun’ is appealing.  Frankly much of church is that and that strikes me as good if not taken too far.  But church must also present a balanced view of life – the costs as it were – the true costs of discipleship.

One of those costs is loneliness.  On that path, we will find ourselves alone, even if we move easily among groups of people.  At a certain level, spiritual growth demands of us a certain willingness to travel in paths that we would not choose, paths we travel alone.  In that place we truly learn of the unconditional.

I have puzzled over that more than once.  What I know from my own life experience is that that is what in the end destabilized my ego enough to realize that I could stand as I felt God called me to stand without obsessing about how it would be received by others.  It is easy to write those words and conjure up images of the heroic.  But it has been a far different journey than the heroic.  There is often a sadness and melancholy in that place.   When joy appears – and there is great joy – it comes from a quite, deeper place of peace.  As one author noted, we come to see that both the sadness and joy draw largely from the same well.

Re-read the Jesus prayer in the Garden as He wished for the “cup” to pass from Him – for there to be an easier way.

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