The past few weeks I’ve been dipping into Henri Nouwen’s The Road to Daybreak, his journal chronicling the year he decided to join the L’Arche community for handicapped people. Nouwen, if you are not familiar with him, was not handicapped when he agreed to join the community. But he was convinced that God was calling him to serve there, and he was equally convinced that he would grow tremendously as a result of his friendship with these handicapped people and their assistants.
The journal is moving and also incredibly convicting. A theme running through the book is poverty—the poverty the handicapped of L’Arche experience in their physical and mental limitations, their loneliness and frustration, and also the poverty of spirit to which Jesus calls us. Most of society considers the handicapped “marginal and useless,” Nouwen writes. “But God has chosen them to be the poor through whom he makes his presence known.”
I’ve had to examine my own heart several times as I read, and sadly realized that I have let the poor—in whatever guise—be marginal in my own life. I have not sought them out, but avoided poverty at all costs. What’s more, Nouwen makes it clear that Jesus does not merely invite us to be with the poor, but to be poor. When I think about saying “yes” to Jesus’ invitation to poverty, I feel a strong, almost physical, resistance well up in me.
“Jesus’ life is marked by an always deeper choice of what is small, humble, poor, rejected, and despised,” Nouwen writes. “The poor are the preferred dwelling place of God. Thus they have become the way to meet God.”
Is my life marked by choosing what is “small, humble, poor, rejected, and despised”? Absolutely not. In fact, the truth is my life is marked by the opposite. Time and again I choose what is large, successful, shiny, enviable, attractive, powerful. My resistance to poverty is so great I find myself having to pray, “God, help me to want to want to say yes to your invitation to know you through poverty.”
Today I wondered what I could abstain from for the season of Lent. As I thought about the idea of choosing poverty or choosing riches, choosing Jesus’ way or choosing the world’s way, I felt heavy with the realization that my beloved lifestyle blogs—the ones I devour on a daily basis—are hindering me in this area. They are beautifully designed in a way that avoids any hint of poverty, and they celebrate the world’s values of aesthetic beauty, career success, glamorous travel, and finding one’s highest fulfillment in family relationships. These are not necessarily wrong or sinful, but they do create in me a coveting, rather than a thankful, heart, and they make me want to live in their beautiful worlds, far from the poor or the “descending way” of God.
So that’s it. I won’t look at my favorite blogs like Cup of Jo, A Beautiful Mess, Love Taza, and others, until Easter. And even then, I will have to really evaluate whether I should look at them at all!
What about you? Did you decide to abstain from anything for Lent this year?