Community

Community by Henri Nouwen

Jasmine Tree

“Community is like a large mosaic. Each little piece seems so insignificant. One piece is bright red, another cold blue or dull green, another warm purple, another sharp yellow, another shining gold. Some look precious, others ordinary. Some look valuable, others worthless. Some look gaudy, others delicate. As individual stones, we can do little with them except compare them and judge their beauty and value. When, however, all these little stones are brought together in one big mosaic portraying the face of Christ, who would ever question the importance of any one of them? If one of them, even the least spectacular one, is missing, the face is incomplete. Together in the one mosaic, each little stone is indispensable and makes a unique contribution to the glory of God. That’s community, a fellowship of little people who together make God visible in the world.

So often we are inclined to keep our lives hidden. Shame and guilt prevent us from letting others know what we are living. We think: “If my family and friends knew the dark cravings of my heart and my strange mental wanderings, they would push me away and exclude me from their company.” But the opposite is true. When we dare to lift our cup and let our friends know what is in it, they will be encouraged to lift their cups and share with us their own anxiously hidden secrets.

The greatest healing often takes place when we no longer feel isolated by our shame and guilt and discover that others often feel what we feel and think what we think and have the fears, apprehensions, and preoccupations we have.

Lifting our lives to others happens every time we speak or act in ways that make our lives lives for others. When we are fully able to embrace our own lives, we discover that what we claim we also want to proclaim. A life well held is indeed a life for others. We stop wondering whether our life is better or worse than others and start seeing clearly that when we live our life for others we not only claim our individuality but also proclaim our unique place in the mosaic of the human family.

Lifting our cup means sharing our life so we can celebrate it. When we truly believe we are called to lay down our lives for our friends, we must dare to take the risk to let others know what we are living. The important question is, “Do we have a circle of trustworthy friends where we feel safe enough to be intimately known and called to an always greater maturity?” Just as we lift up our glasses to people we trust and love, so we lift up the cup of our life to those from whom we do not want to have secrets and with whom we want to form community.

When we do want to drink our cup and drink it to the bottom, we need others who are willing to drink their cups with us. We need community, a community in which confession and celebration are always present together. We have to be willing to let others know us if we want them to celebrate life with us. When we lift our cups and say “to life,” we should be talking about real lives, not only hard, painful, sorrowful lives, but also lives so full of joy that celebration becomes a spontaneous response.” Henri Nouwen, Can You Drink the Cup?

http://www.amazon.com/Can-You-Drink-Henri-Nouwen/dp/1594710996

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2 thoughts on “Community by Henri Nouwen

  1. Christina, this was very timely and wonderful… Like Henry said, ” The important question is, “Do we have a circle of trustworthy friends where we feel safe enough to be intimately known and called to an always greater maturity?” Just as we lift up our glasses to people we trust and love, so we lift up the cup of our life to those from whom we do not want to have secrets and with whom we want to form community.”
    So important, yet so rare.

  2. I think that John in his letter to the church was talking about this very thing when he said,

    “And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
    (1 John 1:4-9 KJV)

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