I’m not sure how I’ve gotten this far in life without having read the works of Henri Nouwen. Now that I’ve finished Spiritual Direction I have high hopes of devouring much more of his wisdom.
Nouwen (1932-1996) is what you’d call a “pastor’s pastor.” He served as a Catholic priest, a teacher at Harvard and Yale, and most notably, as a caretaker for those with severe handicaps in a L’Arche community. Despite his considerable success Nouwen struggled his entire life with a true sense of vocation, sexuality and depression. He is most known for books like Wounded Healer, and his focus on the scriptural image of the Prodigal son.
Spiritual Direction is a collection of essays, speeches and notes published posthumously. They deal with the deep questions that must be answered in order to listen to and follow God’s call. Along the way, he shares about his own struggles. Probably the most powerful are his thoughts on the “spirituality of the body,” where he shares about his struggle to commit to God amidst questions of vocation, aging and sexuality.
It’s hard to capture why it’s important to read Nouwen, so I’ll leave it with this quote:
“For most of my life I have struggled to find God, to know God, to Love God. I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life…and avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself. I have failed many times, but always tried again, even when I was close to despair.
Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by God?”