Friday, October 17, 2008

An Essential Tension

Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. He will only do harm to himself and to the community. Alone you stood before God when He called you; alone you had to answer that call; alone you had to struggle and pray; and alone you will die and give an account to God. You cannot escape yourself; for God has singled you out. If you refuse to be alone, you are rejecting Christ's call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called.... Let him who is not in community beware of being alone. Into the community you were called -- the call was not meant for you alone; in the community of the called you bear your cross, you struggle, you pray. You are not alone even in death, and on the Last Day you will be only one of the great congregation of Jesus Christ. If you scorn the fellowship of the brethren, you reject the call of Jesus Christ. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "Life Together"

There is an essential tension within human existence -- we simultaneously feel the pull to "Belong" and the pull to "Be Different." That is why in election years people will feel the need to say "I'm a Democrat" or "I'm a Republican" when in truth there is more that will unite this country that will divide. Yes, we differ in methods of BEING an American; we do not differ in the fact that we ARE Americans.

Likewise with denominations; many feel the need to continually point out differences between Denomination X and Denomination Y -- rather than pointing out the places we stand in common.

Within our own selves, we need to understand our own person-hood first; who am I as a person before we enter into community of any sort. On the other hand, we understand who we really are as we are in relation to a community.

This morning during his weeky conference, John Eudes made a remark about the relationship between solitude and intimacy that touched me deeply. He said, "Without solitude there can be no real people. The more you discover what a person is, and experience what a human relationship requires in order to remain profound, fruitful, and a source of growth and development, the more you discover that you are alone and that the measure of your solitude is the measure of your capacity for communion. The measure of your awareness of God's transcendent call to each person is the measure of your capacity for intimacy with others. If you do not realize that the persons to whom you are relating are each called to an eternal transcendent relationship that transcends everything else, how can you relate intimately to another at his center from your center?" Henri Nouwen, "Genesee Diary" from the entry for Sunday the 30th.

It is in the liminal space between darkness and light; the dark of the forest floor and the sunlight of a meadow, where most wildlife lives. It is balance between differentiation and conformity; solitude and community where life is lived the richest; in a very essential tension.

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