Presence not Programmes

Been thinking again about what it is to follow the example of an incarnate God who, as Peterson puts it, "became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood" (John 1:14 from the Message), and I thought again about the example of Henri Nouwen, the theologian, activist and writer, who gave up his high-flying, academic existence to become a carer for physically and mentally handicapped people. In his book “Gracias” he says:

More and more, the desire grows in me simply to walk around, greet people, enter their homes, sit on their doorsteps, play ball, throw water, and be known as someone who wants to live with them. It is a privilege to have the time to practice this simple ministry of presence. Still, it is not as simple as it seems. My own desire to be useful, to do something significant, or to be part of some impressive project is so strong that soon my time is taken up by meetings, conferences, study groups, and workshops that prevent me from walking the streets.
It is difficult not to have plans, not to organise people around an urgent cause, and not to feel that you are working directly for social progress. But I wonder more and more if the first thing shouldn’t be to know people by name, to eat and drink with them, to listen to their stories and tell your own, and to let them know with words, handshakes, and hugs that you do not simply like them, but truly love them.


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