Reconciliation and the Hidden Life
On Monday, we looked at an excerpt from Henri Nouwen‘s Sabbatical Journey and unpacked some of his reflections about Lent. We focused more on the beginning and end of the passage, but today I really want to focus on what he says in the middle.
Jesus stressed the hidden life. Whether we give alms, pray, or fast, we are able to do it in a hidden way, not to be praised by people but to enter into closer communion with God. Lent is a time of returning to God. It is a time to confess how we keep looking for joy, peace, and satisfaction in the many people and things surrounding us, without really finding what we desire. Only God can give us what we want. So we must be reconciled with God, as Paul says, and let that reconciliation be the basis of our relationship with others.
I always love how honest Nouwen is about what it’s like to be human. He acknowledges all our fallen nature, our pride and guilt and selfishness and all the rest, yet he uses his own vulnerability to draw us into closer relationship with the Divine.
How often I fail at living the “hidden life” Jesus modeled for us. How easily I am distracted and motivated by the praise the world gives. How quickly I stray from the one thing I want. The psalmist calls it an undivided heart. John calls it remaining in God. Nouwen calls it communion with God.
It is only when we are living this hidden life that we are able to be in right relationship with others. It is only when we acknowledge our need for and accept God’s forgiveness that we are able to acknowledge our need for and ask for forgiveness from others or give them our forgiveness, even if they do not ask or acknowledge the need.
Lent is a time for reconciling ourselves to God and to others (not to mention to ourselves) so that when Easter morning comes, we are fully able to understand and celebrate the event that forever reconciled the world to God.
This process is big and important. It is difficult. It requires humility and honesty, vulnerability and transparency. It requires intention and space.
But the good news is, reconciliation starts with God, and with God, it is already finished!