In the introduction to Henri Nouwen’s book, The Inner Voice of Love, he writes that “This book is my secret journal. It was written during the most difficult period of my life, from December 1987 to June 1988. That was a time of extreme anguish, during which I wondered whether I would be able to hold on to my life. Everything came crashing down–my self-esteem, my energy to live and work, my sense of being loved, my hope for healing, my trust in God . . . everything. Here I was, a writer about the spiritual life, known as someone who loves God and gives hope to people, flat on the ground and in total darkness.
“What had happened? I had come face to face with my own nothingness. It was as if all that had given my life meaning was pulled away and I could see nothing in front of me but a bottomless abyss.”
Excerpt from the chapter entitled “Claim Your Unique Presence in Your Community”
Your unique presence in your community is the way God wants you to be present to others. Different people have different ways of being present. You have to know and claim your way. That is why discernment is so important. Once you have an inner knowledge of your true vocation, you have a point of orientation. That will help you decide what to do and what to let go of, what to say and what to remain silent about, when to go out and when to stay home, who to be with and who to avoid.
When you get exhausted, frustrated, overwhelmed, or run down, your body is saying that you are doing things that are none of your business. God does not require of you what is beyond your ability, what leads you away from God, or what makes you depressed or sad. God wants you to live for others and to live that presence well. Doing so might involve suffering, fatigue, and even moments of great physical or emotional pain, but none of this must ever pull you away from your deepest self and God.
Your unique presence in your community is the way God wants you to be present to others. Different people have different ways of being present. You have to know and claim your way.