“But when a (wo)man says to his/her/their fellow (wo)man, ‘I will not let you go. I am going to be here waiting for you tomorrow and I expect you not to disappoint me,’ then tomorrow is no longer an endless dark tunnel” – Henri M. Nouwen
This quote comes from a story where a man is going to undergo risky surgery and a hospital chaplin comes to talk with him. This man has no family, he’s a tobacco farmer living a hard life. He might lose his feet. The guy is terrified that he’ll die. He’s afraid to live, because if he loses his feet he’ll lose his livelihood. This quote is aggressive. Nouwen advises us to say in times like this: I’m going to show up tomorrow. I want you to stay. Don’t disappoint me. Reading this gave me solace. There are often moments where my clients are showing up scared about the next step (and to be clear, most are not facing death). But I’ve wondered, at what point do we say to each other: I expect you to show up for this life. Do not disappoint me. I shall be HERE and you matter and you must do the risky, bold, terrifying thing. I love you. Show up.
I think we can add this, AND practice the grace that comes with unconditional love if and when others don’t meet the expectation. What might the world be like if we set ridiculous expectations? If we shot for the moon and responded with grace and unconditional love when landing in the stars? It’s not the expectation that we shy from, it’s the fear of not being loved or belonging less if we don’t make it.
Last year, I met an older woman who wanted me to take her place as co-leader of Families Moving Forward, a program that serves families experiencing homelessness. Every time there was a request, she said yes. Sometimes I wanted to say no. But she’d just say, “This is what we do. Families are homeless and we will take care of them. Radical hospitality + generosity.” As a team, we leaned in and always found a way. Folks stepped out of the shadows to help.
Nouwen’s quote holds the key to living a fulfilling life. We must be willing to ask each other to SHOW UP, to hold the expectation in order to escape the endless dark tunnel. You matter. You matter to me. You also matter to people who don’t even know you yet. We need you here.
These Soulful Sunday blogs go out weekly on Sundays to be used as a place to step back from the hustle and bustle and explore what your soul might be saying to you. Some folks use these as journal prompts and let loose amidst pages. Some folks bring them to the kitchen table and jam over coffee. Do you, boo.