Friday, September 11, 2015

The Risk of Loving

“Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering.... The greatest pain comes from leaving. When the child leaves home, when the husband or wife leaves for a long period of time or for good, when the beloved friend departs to another country or dies … the pain of the leaving can tear us apart.
Still, if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving, we will never experience the joy of loving. And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking.”
Henri J.M. Nouwen

The Risk of Loving:

(This reflection is based on the previous post.  Please see here for more info

Recently my husband was in Goma for work and was able to visit with Argentine. He said that she is sad, but that she seems to be doing OK. He taught her to use a smart phone to send email and photos. It is something she has always longed to do. Sharing photos of her life, joining the global community. But it has always been a step beyond her capacity for one reason or another. The technology or the logistics were always just a little too complicated. But this time it seems she has got it. And so I have gotten a bunch of emails and photos from her recently. 

Her most recent message read "Don't tire of praying for me...because my head hurts and at night I can't find sleep. I hope in God alone. I will be well."

When she dreamed of learning to send an email, this is probably not the message she imagined sending. I am sure she had imagined sending happy messages and joyful photos. Or at least that is what I always imagined receiving.

It seemed ironic to me, that now, in this time of struggle, is when she finally, miraculously, learns to send an email. How can she have space in her head for that right now?

But maybe now is the perfect time. Maybe there is an urgency to sending messages urgency you find more in moments of struggle than you find in moments of triumph. After all, when is it that we need our friends and family the most?

I have to say, it is not easy from me. To be connected. I am always happy to hear from Argentine. But I am always also heartbroken. Immediately carried back into her loss, and into my own powerlessness to take away that pain.

I am reminded of the words of Henri Nouwen...

...Still, if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving we will never experience the joy of loving. And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair, we have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking."

Sometimes that risk, the risk of loving, seems astronomically high. Especially in Congo. Suddenly I find myself counting the number of times that every one of the SHONA women's children have been sick. Promese, Prince, Daniel, Daniella, Jonathan, Joashe, Rachelle. They have all been sick far too often. And I can feel myself calculate the cost of loving women whose lives are a world away from mine, and who face countless challenges that I will never be able to make disappear.

But then I think of the risk they take to love. Right there in the midst of it. They love children, and parents and friends in a world that they know is terribly unstable. And they continue to hope. What kind of risk does it take for Argentine to conclude her message with "I will be well"?

And come to think of it, what kind of risk does it take for her to send that message in the first place, to reach out and say "don't tire of praying for me"... to people halfway across the world, who have a million other things calling out for their attention. The risk of loving me, of loving you, when we might just as easily disappear from her life, or just never get the message.

But the messages keep coming. From both sides. When I sent out our last newsletter, explaining Argentine's loss, I got a lot of personal responses from many of you. Sharing your love, and for many of you, sharing a story of your own loss as well. I've gotten countless messages on Facebook asking how Argentine is doing, or saying that you are praying. Many you have also generously donated to the fund in memory of Rachelle. With those donations Argentine is putting a monument on Rachelle's grave, and she is having a closing ceremony, to mark the end of 40 days of mourning. She is also using the funds to contribute back to the community where she has been staying and which has supported her.

But what I want to say is this: thank you. Thank you for taking the risk of loving. I often use the phrase "it makes all the difference in the world". I use that phrase when you buy something from SHONA, and it is true. Your purchase does make all the difference in the world to these women. It puts food on their table, buys medicine when they are sick, and builds homes to keep them warm. So thank you for shopping.

But thank you, for not just shopping, but for giving your hearts as well. For taking the risk to love. Because that too makes all the difference in the world. It doesn't so much change the world, but it changes each of us. It strengthens us, so that together we can conclude every message as Argentine did. We can say to each other... "I will be well".