“Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?”
“It would be paralyzing to proclaim that we, as individuals, are responsible for all human suffering, but it is a liberating message to say that we are called to respond to it. Because out of an inner solidarity with our fellow humans the first attempts to alleviate these pains can come forth.” (Nouwen)
This book has been filled with “ouch” moments. If you’ve come this far in this series of blogs I hope you have already picked up this book for yourself. You’re never too old or too young to be changed by God.
In the last blog we opened ourselves up to the suffering world around us. We connected with humanity and realized we are all a part of the human race. Nouwen calls this the “burden of reality.” It’s impossible for us to truly bear this burden. It’s too much. And yet isn’t this what Jesus did on the cross?
Nouwen goes on to say, “When the answer to our world remains hanging between our minds and our hands, it remains weak and superficial. When our protests against war, segregation and social injustice do not reach beyond the level of a reaction, then our indignation becomes self-righteousness, our hope for a better world degenerates into a desire for quick results, and our generosity is soon exhausted by disappointments. Only when our mind has descended into our heart can we expect a lasting response to well up from our innermost self.”
That’s what it takes. It takes our mind descending into our hearts. It’s deep in our hearts where our own humanity connects with the humanity of those around us. It’s where we understand the pain and suffering and form that “inner solidarity with our fellow humans.”
Perhaps this is why we avoid solitude so much. Maybe this is why we fill our lives with constant entertainment and refuse to retreat within ourselves. For it is deep inside that we will connect with a God who will call us to accountability. And, perhaps worse, it is there that we will connect with the condition of our race. It’s an open and dark closet in the dead of night. It’s where the monsters under our bed come from. It’s the chilly eerie feeling you get when you walk into a dark and unfamiliar space at night. It’s where we are confronted with the human condition and it’s more than we can bear.
I’ve tried to cultivate a confrontational attitude in my life when it comes to fear. If I find myself hesitant or fearful, I find another desire even deeper that rises to confront that which I dread. If I fear the monsters under my bed, I find the desire to get down off the bed and crawl underneath to meet my foe. If I am fearful of what I will find in the solitude of my heart, perhaps now is the time to delve deeper still.
As I’ve grown older I’ve begun to notice the difference between the average person and the world-changer. There are some who are able to step past indecisiveness and move to action. Many are capable of doing something significant in life but those who actually do are the ones who decided to do something about it. It sounds redundant but that’s only because it’s just that simple.
Here is the hope in what Nouwen talks about: if I’m willing to connect with God and my own fallen race I will find the strength to do something about it. It is there that I will connect with the very heart of God – a heart that wants desperately to save the human race from sin and is willing to do whatever it takes, even though it would cost Him His one and only Son.
Many times I’ve seen a need but didn’t do anything about it. Maybe the solution required more from me than I thought I could give. Maybe I was too afraid of getting hurt emotionally or physically. The cost was too great for me and I failed at serving my God because of my own fears. What if I could face those fears just like the monsters under my bed or in my dark closet? What if I chose to serve God fearlessly, set my eyes on the goal and ignored all that caused my hesitations? What if I opened myself up to allow God to use me? What am I so afraid of?
Jesus has already done more than any of us ever could to help the human race. He’s paid the price. And, if we are willing to let Him, He will use us to reach out to the suffering around us in a tangible and human way – fully human by the power of God.