Lonely

One of the more interesting sections in all of Scripture is some of Jesus’ final words, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”  Peter Rollins describes this as divine abandonment - the moment when God abandons God.  As I have reread many of the Easter passages this week.  I am struck by how lonely Jesus must have been during his final week. As Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, people greeted him like a conquering king.  Jesus knew he had come to die and within a week some of these same people would be shouting “crucify him.”  In the upper room, Jesus’ disciples thought they were enjoying another Passover meal together.  Jesus was sharing some final moments with his closest friends who didn’t have a clue.  What emotions was Jesus experiencing as he sat around the table?  What was he thinking as he washed the disciples’ feet?  In the garden Jesus asks his friends to pray with him and these friends choose sleep instead.  During Jesus’ trial his best friend denies him three times.

Loneliness has to be one of the most painful of all human experiences.  I am an extreme introvert. I am good at being alone, but being alone is different than loneliness and loneliness is not fun.   Henri Nouwen describes it like the Grand Canyon - a deep incision in the surface of our existence.

Why is the call to Christian leadership and ministry also a call to loneliness?  This is the irony of ministry - we call people to community, mutuality and interdependence but find ourselves on the outside looking in.

In a strange sort of way it is the loneliness of ministry that opens up a space for community, support and unconditional love.  It is in our loneliness that we become most aware of our need for each other.  This dependence on each other is what builds the family of God.

Wounded Healers

If you are like me, pain is not something you go looking for.  I can honestly say that I actively avoid pain if possible.  The other day someone asked me if I had a tattoo; my response came quickly – “I have no moral concerns about tattoos but I cannot imagine willingly submitting myself to the pain involved in getting one.” I find it interesting and somewhat disturbing that the pain, failures, and shortcomings in my personal life tend to be the primary sources for empathy and meaningful connection(s) with other people.  Wounds have a way of breaking down barriers; they humanize each of us.

In many ways the logic is obvious.  Parents who have suffered through the tragic death of a child have a better sense of how to be present and available when someone else faces the same circumstance.  Pastors who have been through a contentious divorce are less judgmental of other leaders going through the same experience.  Alcoholics Anonymous has always assumed that the addicted are better, more effective healers of the addicted than are non-addicted experts and authorities, including pastors.

This is not a blog about going out and looking for pain, nor is it a permission to engage in destructive behavior for the purposes of becoming a better, more effective healer.  What I am suggesting is that churches and places of ministry create spaces for people who have suffered tragedy, lived a life of addiction, or even broken the law.  Too often woundedness, pain, and sin are viewed as things which eliminated people from ministry.  It is exactly these experiences that become proving grounds for pastoral care.  It was Henri Nouwen who said, “In our own woundedness, we can become a source of life for others.”  Richard Rohr also talks about this- that the point of our deepest pain/wound is also the place of our greatest gift.

This is a blog about redemption.  Rather than run from the woundedness in your own life, redeem it, use it as a source of healing and comfort.