Henri Nouwen left a distinguished academic career that included posts at both Yale and Harvard in order to live at L’Arche Community near Toronto. L’Arche brings together the able-bodied and disabled to live in the same place, sharing their lives together. Nouwen describes his journey as an intellectual who learns critical lessons from those with disabilities in a book called Road to Daybreak. He explains, "When I look critically at my life I give some of my money, some of my time, some of my energy, and some of my thoughts to God and others, but enough money, time, energy, and thoughts always remain to maintain my own security. Thus I never really give God a chance to show me his boundless love."
Throughout his three-year earthly ministry, Jesus had been describing what it means to give one’s self entirely to God and to others. He taught, "The last will be first, and the first will be last" (Matt. 20:16). He invited, "Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it" (Matt. 10:39) Pulling no punches, Jesus stated, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23). Rather than offering us worldly security, Jesus said that those who want to pattern their lives after Jesus—a cross-shaped pattern—could be asked to offer all of their selves, including their bodies.
Though we purpose to walk with Jesus we keep clutching whatever we think will ensure our security. In failing to release our grasp, we also fail to experience the Father’s boundless love. As we release our grip on worldly comforts, as we stretch out our hands to receive death’s nail, we at last are positioned to receive the Father’s boundless love.
Apply the Word
More often the call to us is more prosaic. We might be asked to change diapers and spoon-feed young children, or perhaps our service includes cleaning yards and homes for people in our community who cannot do it themselves. Whatever form this service takes, Jesus asks us to sacrifice our time and energy and resources in His name and for His glory.