In these continuing days of Christmas, the Henri Nouwen Society website has had some lovely reflections on reconciliation. I thought I'd share some of that with you as it's been fertile meditation ground for me these last few days:
"What is our task in this world as children of God and brothers and sisters of Jesus? Our task is reconciliation. Wherever we go we see divisions among people. All these divisions are tragic reflections of our separation from God. The truth that all people belong together as members of one family under God is seldom visible. Our sacred task is to reveal that truth in the reality of everyday life. "
"How do we work for reconciliation? First and foremost by claiming for ourselves that God through Christ has reconciled us to God. It is not enough to believe this with our heads. We have to let the truth of this reconciliation permeate every part of our beings. As long as we are not fully and thoroughly convinced that we have been reconciled with God, that we are forgiven, that we have received new hearts, new spirits, new eyes to see, and new ears to hear, we continue to create divisions among people because we expect from them a healing power they do not possess.Only when we fully trust that we belong to God and can find in our relationship with God all that we need for our minds, hearts, and souls, can we be truly free in this world and be ministers of reconciliation. This is not easy; we readily fall back into self-doubt and self-rejection. We need to be constantly reminded through God's Word, the sacraments, and the love of our neighbours that we are indeed reconciled."
"To the degree that we accept that through Christ we ourselves have been reconciled with God we can be messengers of reconciliation for others. Essential to the work of reconciliation is a nonjudgmental presence. We are not sent to the world to judge, to condemn, to evaluate, to classify, or to label. When we walk around as if we have to make up our mind about people and tell them what is wrong with them and how they should change, we will only create more division. Jesus says it clearly: "Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge; ... do not condemn; ... forgive" (Luke 6:36-37).In a world that constantly asks us to make up our minds about other people, a nonjudgmental presence seems nearly impossible. But it is one of the most beautiful fruits of a deep spiritual life and will be easily recognized by those who long for reconciliation."
One of the first things that my SD and I talked about oh, so long ago (18 months or a life time, depending on how you look at it) when we were just starting to meet was this idea of reconciliation. I have to smile at myself now…(with compassion….truly!) I was so driven and earnest to understand this thing that did not come easily to me. I was in a place at that time when I was struggling with some important relationships. And it was truly torturing me that this was the case, as I was approaching deaconal ordination and something in me knew that all was not well with my soul. So I did what came naturally to me. I researched! I went to Scripture and read all about reconciliation. And headwise I got it. But there was that disconnect…. What I know now, no let me rephrase that, what I have experienced now…what I have allowed myself to experience is God’s compassionate, healing, reconciling love in my own heart. I have let grace work on me. I have given myself the gift of being present before God, scary as that was at first, but finally trusting that God truly was longing to love me, not to judge me and find me wanting, as I was so sure was the case. I was so very afraid to allow myself to be seen...by God, by another, even by my own authentic self, as I was sure that what was there was not good enough for God. But through a series of very fortunate and blessed circumstances, God gifted me with people and events which allowed me to know that this simply was not true. God let me somehow see my soul, as one of the Soul Sisters said so eloquently, with God's eyes, and somehow, that opened something in me, set something free in me. In Nouwen's words, I let the truth of God's reconciling presence permeate every part of my being.
And now having experienced this reconciling presence, I can pass it on. I can incarnate that for others ever so much more effectively as well as being a non-judgemental, compassionate, presence for myself. Many days this one is still the harder of the two. But I think I am a whole lot easier on all of us than I was before. Thanks be to God.