The Ministry of Absence

In John 17, Jesus puts words around the necessity and purpose of his leaving. He has more he wants to teach us by his absence. This can be painfully difficult for us to understand or appreciate.

Henri Nouwen has said a few wise words about the ministry of absence:
"there is a ministry in which our leaving creates space for God's Spirit and in which, by our absence, God can become present in a new way." (The Living Reminder)

Wil Hernandez says in his book, Mere Spirituality:
"Knowing when to be present or absent can understandably be a challenge. Still, we need to learn how to creatively navigate our way through this tension so we can best cooperate with God. To be a hospitable soul host with, to, and for others calls for a spacious heart - a heart able to create and offer both interior space for one's self and exterior space for others, as well as a discerning heart that wisely knows who to exercise "creative absence.""

This is a matter for our prayer.

John 16:5-15 (NLT)
“But now I am going away to the one who sent me, and not one of you is asking where I am going. 6 Instead, you grieve because of what I’ve told you. 7 But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. 9 The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me. 10 Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more. 11 Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.
12 “There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. 14 He will bring me glory by telling you whatever he receives from me. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine; this is why I said, ‘The Spirit will tell you whatever he receives from me.’

For Reflection and Prayer:
Was there a word, phrase or image which caught your attention you as you listened to or slowly read the text? Quietly reflect on it in your prayer with Jesus. Journal your conversation.

Was there any particular emotion which emerged as you listened to the scripture?
Journal about it. Where do you sense that emotion in your body? What does that emotion tell you about your need?

Reflect on your longing for an Advocate. Where are you needing someone to defend you or fight for you? Bring these longings into your prayer.

Savor any consoling words or pictures as you quietly rest in God.

print pdf