Wednesday, October 24, 2007

In to the Father, Out to Others

I have been thinking a lot about my daily life and what the rhythm of my life should be. Basically the question I ask a lot is how much of my time should be "in", in solitude, and how much should be "out", interacting with others. I know I need both, it's just how much of each should I have? I more naturally have a drawing to go inward, but I also find a needful and a compassionate compelling to go outward too.

A little while ago I read a book by Henri Nouwen called Out of Solitude, which speaks poignantly to this tension in our lives. His text is Mark 1:32-39. Sandwiched in between verses talking about Jesus healing, and preaching and casting out demons is this verse: "In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there."

Nouwen goes on to write:

In the center of breathless activities we hear a restful breathing. Surrounded by hours of moving we find a moment of quiet stillness. In the heart of much involvement there are words of withdrawal. In the midst of action there is contemplation. And after much togetherness there is solitude....I have the sense that the secret of Jesus' ministry is hidden in that lonely place where he went to pray, early in the morning, long before dawn.

In the lonely place Jesus finds the courage to follow God's will and not his own; to speak God's words and not his own; to do God's work and not his own. He reminds us constantly: "I can do nothing by aim is to do not my own will, but the will of him who sent me" (John 5:30).

Somewhere we know that without a lonely place our lives are in danger. Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure. Somewhere we know that without a lonely place our actions quickly become empty gestures. The careful balance between silence and words, withdrawal and involvement, distance and closeness, solitude and community forms the basis of the Christian life and should therefore be the subject of our most personal attention." (p. 13-15)

Surely if Jesus lived a life of withdrawing to spend time with the Father, we too should live our lives this way. It is not so important how much we do for God, as what - or who - is the source of all our doing. Jesus did nothing apart from the Father, though He surely could've done a lot. I want to live my life the same way, taking time to hear from the Father, and drawing supply from the Father, so I can live out the life He is calling me to live with others.

Our lives should be a graceful rhythm of going in to the Father, going out to others; in to the Father, out to others. How much time doing each will fluctuate from day to day. The main thing is making the time to have this discipline. Going out is easy and often compelling, because we live in a busy world that can demand much of us. All the more we need to determine to create that precious space to be with our Father daily.

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