While You Were Away . . .

Posted: August 7, 2011 in Things of Faith
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Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, ...

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I have recently been reading a small book by Henri Nouwen entitled, The Living Reminder. In it he says that ministers (which all Christians are) are to be living reminders of Jesus’ presence. What particularly caught my attention was his discussion of how believers can be these living reminders in both their presence and absence. The ministry of “presence” I understand, but “absence?”

Quite a few years ago I was required to travel to Scotland for a five week stay. What was difficult about this trip was that Laura and the girls couldn’t come with me. In 12 years of marriage (at the time) we had never been apart for more than a week. What was remarkable, however, is that in that extended absence, Laura and I communicated primarily by email and our correspondents were filled with intimate affection expressing our love and how we missed each other. One of the points of Nouwen’s book is that in the absence there is a paradoxical opportunity for intimate growth. Even as Laura and I experienced this during that extended absence, so too do all those to whom we minister.

You see it is often after someone leaves that we are ministered to by the remembrance of his or her presence. Our spirits are upheld as we remember how we felt as the person was present praying with us and spending time with us. We may often wonder what effect our presence has with people, but have we ever wondered about the effects of our absence? As our intimacy with Jesus grows and we are formed more closely to him, we become living reminders of His presence even when we are absent. It is only after we leave that people begin to remember how Jesus ministered to them through us. Who would have thought that even when absent we minister.

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