In Good Faith
I want to begin by expressing my appreciation to the Lacombe Express for inviting myself and other pastors to share an encouraging word with their readers. As pastors from various denominations we meet monthly to encourage and pray for each other and we seek to work together to show the love of Jesus to everyone in our community (John 17).
Wasn’t it a great summer? I trust you had pleasant and restful days. God is good!
This summer I had the opportunity to study the biblical insights of Henri Nouwen during a structured sabbatical time. If you get a chance I highly recommend any of his many books to you. He expresses a very sincere and humble walk with Jesus through the struggles of life. His book Reaching Out: the three movements of the spiritual life was of particular encouragement to me.
One thing that I wanted to share with you is a memorable phrase that comes back often in Nouwen’s reflection on the Bible’s truth. Drawing on scripture and life experience Nouwen says, “What is most deeply personal is actually most universal and that which is most universal is actually most deeply personal.”
What an interesting idea. Can you see what he means by that?
Nouwen chose to share quite openly the struggles of his Christian life in his books. It surprised him at first that people even wanted to read his work but he came to realize that as he shared many deeply personal struggles he touched the hearts and lives of others who had very similar struggles and uncertainties. “What is most personal is actually most universal.”
I think this can be applied to people in our lives, our churches and even Lacombe as a community. So often people feel they are the only ones with a struggle, hurt or uncertainty and they do their best to deny and hide it from others and sometimes even from themselves. The Bible says we all struggle with sin, suffering, hurt and pain. These personal things are part of all of our lives (universal). So instead of thinking we are the only ones, this truth enables us to bring our struggles before God first of all to receive his comfort and forgiveness as well as to share with others, those we know and trust, so that we can help, strengthen and encourage one another in Christian love. We are not alone.
At the same time, “The most universal is also the most personal.” So when we see or hear about the pain and struggles of others we might not know, those in our community or even in faraway places, we feel their pain in our common humanity and are drawn together and we long to help those in need.
Both senses of the personal being universal and the universal being personal draw us together as a caring community. That is what we seek to do as pastors and it is our prayer that Lacombe will be an example of that sincere care for all of its residents as we understand that the struggles we face personally are faced by everyone else – financial challenges, health concerns, family tensions and work stresses. As we come together in love and seek to help and support, then we are truly living out the call of Christ Jesus to, “Love our neighbor (Matt 22:39).”
A great help in this has been the block parties held in many neighbourhoods in and around Lacombe this summer. People could come together in a relaxed environment and find, not surprisingly, that they have much in common. They were encouraged when they got to know each other and now they take opportunities to help each other.
Let’s keep working at making Lacombe that friendly, kind and caring community.
Mike Vandyk is the pastor at the Bethel Christian Reformed Church.