The Intermittent Volunteer’s Weblog

Befriending People in Dallas Who Are Homeless

Servant? Leader? Both. May 23, 2015

Filed under: Christianity,healing,Henri Nouwen,inspiration,Leadership,peace,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 8:52 pm

Saturday, May 23, 2015

 

Servant? Leader? Both.

“Ministry is… a mutual experience… [Jesus] wants Peter to feed his sheep and care for them, not as ‘professionals’ who know their clients’ problems and take care of them, but as vulnerable brothers and sisters who know and are known, who care and are cared for, who forgive and are being forgiven, who love and are being loved.

 

Somehow we have come to believe that good leadership requires a safe distance from those we are called to lead… Someone serves, someone else is being served, and be sure not to mix up the roles! But how can we lay down our life for those with whom we are not even allowed to enter into a deep personal relationship!

 

We are not the healers, we are not the reconcilers, we are not the givers of life. We are sinful, broken, vulnerable people who need as much care as anyone we care for. The mystery of ministry is that we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God.

 

Therefore, true ministry must be mutual. When the members of a community of faith cannot truly know and love their shepherd, shepherding quickly becomes a subtle way of exercising power over others and begins to show authoritarian and dictatorial traits. The world in which we live — a world of efficiency and control — has no models to offer to those who want to be shepherds in the way Jesus was a shepherd. Even the so-called ‘helping professions’ have been so thoroughly secularized that mutuality can only be seen as a weakness and a dangerous form of role confusion. The leadership about which Jesus speaks is of a radically different kind from the leadership offered by the world. It is a servant leadership — to use Robert Greenleaf’s* term — in which the leader is a vulnerable servant who needs the people as much as they need their leader.”

 

               ~~ Henri J.M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus, Reflections on Christian Leadership

 
*Robert K. Greenleaf, Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness

 

Our Brokenness January 25, 2010

Filed under: healing,Henri Nouwen,homelessness,hunger,inspiration,peace — Karen Shafer @ 9:20 pm

Monday, January 25, 2010


I’ve often observed that, if one has a sandwich or a blanket to share with our friends living on the street, there is a grateful response, but a hug, eye contact and a smile are the things that are most appreciated.  We all need to know that we matter.  KS

Our Brokenness


“The moment has come to talk about our brokenness.  You are a broken man.  I am a broken man, and all the people we know or know about are broken.  Our brokenness is so visible and tangible, so concrete and specific….  There are many things I would like to say to you about our brokenness.  But where to begin?

Perhaps the simplest beginning would be to say that our brokenness reveals something about who we are.  Our sufferings and pains are not simply bothersome interruptions of our lives;  rather, they touch us in our uniqueness and our most intimate individuality….  Our brokenness is truly ours.  Nobody else’s.  Our brokenness is as unique as our chosenness and our blessedness….

Although many people suffer from pysical or mental disabilities, and although there is a great amount of economic poverty, homelessness, and lack of basic human needs, the suffering of which I am most aware on a day-to-day basis is the suffering of the broken heart…  In the Western world, the suffering that seems to be the most painful is that of feeling rejected, ignored, despised and left alone.  In my own community, [L’Arche Daybreak Community in Toronto, Canada], with many severely handicapped men and women, the greatest source of suffering is not the handicap itself, but the accompanying feelings of being useless, worthless, unappreciated, and unloved.  It is much easier to accept the inability to speak, walk, or feed oneself than it is to accept the inability to be of special value to another person.  We human beings can suffer immense deprivations with great steadfastness, but when we sense that we no longer have anything to offer anyone, we quickly lose our grip on life.  Instinctively we know that the joy of life comes from the ways in which we live together and that the pain of life comes from the many ways we fail to do that well.

How can we respond to this brokenness?  The first response… is to face it squarely and befriend it.  This may seem quite unnatural.  Our first, most spontaneous response to pain and suffering is to avoid it, to keep it at arm’s length;  to ignore, circumvent, or deny it.  Suffering… is almost always experienced as an unwelcome intrusion into our lives, something that should not be there.

I am convinced that healing is often so difficult because we don’t want to know the pain…  The deep truth is that our human suffering need not be an obstacle to the joy and peace we so desire, but can become, instead, the means to it.  The great secret of the spiritual life… is that everything we live, be it gladness or sadness, joy or pain, health or illness, can all be part of the journey toward the full realization of our humanity…  real care means the willingness to help each other in making our brokenness into the gateway to joy.”

~~Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved

 

Mutuality of Ministry November 3, 2009

Filed under: Christianity,healing,Henri Nouwen,inspiration,Leadership,peace,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 10:52 pm

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mutuality of Ministry

 

“I am the good shepherd.  I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep.”  ~~ John 10: 14-15


“…the same Lord who binds us together in love will also reveal himself to us and others as we walk together on the road.”  ~~ Henri Nouwen

 

I read the following passages recently and felt they challenged, in important ways, certain commonly-held cultural assumptions about ‘helping’ and ‘serving others’.  What do you think?  KS

 

“Ministry is not only a communal experience, it is also a mutual experience…  [Jesus] wants Peter to feed his sheep and care for them, not as ‘professionals’ who know their clients’ problems and take care of them, but as vulnerable brothers and sisters who know and are known, who care and are cared for, who forgive and are being forgiven, who love and are being loved.

 

Somehow we have come to believe that good leadership requires a safe distance from those we are called to lead…  Someone serves, someone else is being served, and be sure not to mix up the roles!  But how can we lay down our life for those with whom we are not even allowed to enter into a deep personal relationship?

 

We are not the healers, we are not the reconcilers, we are not the givers of life.  We are sinful, broken vulnerable people who need as much care as anyone we care for.  The mystery of ministry is that we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God.

 

Therefore, true ministry must be mutual.  When the members of a community of faith cannot truly know and love their shepherd, shepherding quickly becomes a subtle way of exercising power over others and begins to show authoritarian and dictatorial traits.  The world in which we live — a world of efficiency and control — has no models to offer to those who want to be shepherds in the way Jesus was a shepherd.  Even the so-called ‘helping professions’ have been so thoroughly secularized that mutuality can only be seen as a weakness and a dangerous form of role confusion.  The leadership about which Jesus speaks is of a radically different kind from the leadership offered by the world.  It is a servant leadership*… in which the leader is a vulnerable servant who needs the people as much as they need their leader… a leadership that is not modeled on the power games of the world, but on the servant-leader Jesus, who came to give his life for the salvation of many.”

 

                               ~~ Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus, Reflections on Christian Leadership

 

*Robert K. Greenleaf, Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness.