Full disclosure: I sat down to work on this blog with absolutely no clue what I was going to write about. I have been numb with depression lately. Except on those days when I am energized by anger. Neither are exactly helpful for stirring up the creative juices. Some of it has to do with the pandemic and continued quarantine: worry about my autistic son and his blown-to-pieces daily schedule; my mother’s dementia and not being able to spend time with her and hug her; my favorite uncle’s death and the choice not to travel to the funeral and expose myself to COVID when my son is so vulnerable. Some of it has to do with a ruptured family relationship. Some of it has to do with my own health challenges.
Before sitting down to write, I prayed, “Lord, help me out of this mess. My husband can’t help me. My friends can’t help me. My therapist can’t help me. My spiritual director can’t help me. Only You, Lord. Only You.”
And then I powered up my computer, and checked my emails before beginning work on this mystery-topic-blog. What should pop up but my daily Henri Nouwen meditation:
“I know how great a temptation it is in times of anguish and agony to look away from our painful center and expect peace and a sense of inner wholeness to come from some external source. But I am increasingly convinced that, at times of anguish and agony, we have to choose a contained life where we can be in the presence of people who hold us safe and bring us in touch with the unconditional affective love of God. Do not get involved in experiences of living that will lead to dissipation. What is so important is to have a deep sense of inner safety, of being held by a love that is in no way using you, manipulating you, or “needing” you.” (Henri Nouwen, Henri Nouwen Society, 8-24-20)
A contained life.
Wow. What an image for this time of history in which we find ourselves. We’re quarantined, but are we contained?
I know a lot of parents are struggling right now. Parents of typical kids as well as those of children with special needs. Health. School. Finances. Loneliness. Fear. Anxiety. And it is always a temptation to look outside of ourselves for help. For a quick fix. For a solution. For a way out.
Nouwen wasn’t thinking of pandemics and quarantines when he coined the phrase “a contained life.” He was talking about a life where we pull in from the wider world and surround ourselves with people with whom we can be our honest, vulnerable selves, and by doing so, experience the love of God. A love that doesn’t judge, manipulate, or use for its own profit (hmmm…what does that say about social media?!).
I can’t think of a time when we have needed Nouwen’s message more desperately than during this pandemic, this time filled with the noxious fumes of fear and angry people pointing fingers, telling us how to think and behave.
I asked myself, who are the safe people in my life? My husband. My closest friends. My therapist. My spiritual director. Ironically, all of the people I held up to the Lord this morning, saying they couldn’t help me!
Maybe what I meant to say was, none of these people can “fix” me.
Source: Special Needs Parenting- Key Ministry