The Inner Voice of Who Knows What

the pilgrimage: Henri Nouwen and my own topsy-turvy little heart

Day 21: Henri in the inner city.

Henri, Remain Anchored in Your Community:

 When your call to be a compassionate healer gets mixed up with your need to be accepted, the people you want to heal will end up pulling you into their world and robbing you of your healing gift. But when, out of fear of becoming a person who suffers, you fail to get close to such people, you cannot reach them and restore them to health. You feel deeply the loneliness, alienation, and spiritual poverty of your contemporaries. You want to offer them a truly healing response that comes from your faith in the Gospel. But often you have found yourself hooked by curiosity and a need for affection, and so you have lost the ability to bring the good news to those to whom you came so close.

It is important to remain as much in touch as possible with those who know you, love you, and protect your vocation. If you visit people with great needs and deep struggles that you can easily recognize in your own heart, remain anchored in your home community. Think about your community as holding a long line that girds your waist. Wherever you are, it holds that line. Thus you can be very close to people in need of your healing without losing touch with those who protect your vocation. Your community can pull you back when its members see that you are forgetting why you were sent out.

When you feel a burgeoning need for sympathy, support, affection, and care from those to whom you are being sent, remember that there is a place where you can receive those gifts in a safe and responsible way. Do not let yourself be seduced by the dark powers that imprison those you want to set free. Keep returning to those to whom you belong and who keep you in the light. It is that light that you desire to bring into the darkness. You do not have to fear anyone as long as you remain safely anchored in your community. Then you can carry the light far and wide.

I live in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Fresno. Lowell lies right between our downtown in economic limbo, and the artsy, thriving Tower District. Our neighborhood is one on crowded streets, sneakers hung up on telephone wires, lots of little chihuahuas wandering around, smells of pot and tamales, and beautiful beautiful people. I am one of many who have chosen to ‘relocate,’ to intentionally make our home where it is not societally logical. We’ve made our homes in neighborhoods that aren’t used to middle-class white girls with bachelors’ degrees, and aren’t used to having different voices speak up for them.

Through Fresno Pacific, FIFUL experiences, the Pink House, and now relocation, I’ve been in circles of folks involved with ‘urban ministry’ – looking different to each different circle – for the past five years or so. It’s become my home culture, my native language, the community that I feel ‘gets’ me in some very important ways.

It seems like Henri is speaking directly to us urban ministry folks tonight.
Or at least directly to me, in this very integral part of who I am.

More thoughts tomorrow, but I hope that if you, dear reader, consider yourself a member of this urban ministry community – you would take some time to think this over.


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