Last week I wrote about John Perkins and his influence in my life. This week I want to talk about another person, who I never met, but who also shaped who I am today. His name was Henri Nouwen a Catholic priest, a member of the L’Arche community in Toronto, and a prolific writer. In late 1994, a friend gave me Nouwen’s book In the Name of Jesus. It is one of those books that can be read in an afternoon. In it, Nouwen writes about what it means to be a leader in the kingdom of God. Anyone who is contemplating leadership in the church should take the time to hear what Nouwen has to say.
For me, the most powerful part of the book is in the introduction. He writes, “After twenty-five years of priesthood, I found myself praying poorly, living somewhat isolated from other people, and very much preoccupied with burning issues.” These words described me to a tee. I hadn’t spent twenty-five years as a priest, but I had spent over a decade as a pastor. For reasons I still do not completely understand, being a pastor had managed to reduce my faith to a set of routines and rituals than meant very little to me.
Near the end of the introduction, Nouwen talks about hearing a call from God. This call required him to give up his dreams for success. In his case it meant leaving his teaching position at Harvard. In my case it meant giving up my vision for what successful ministry was. For both of us, the process of letting go of our expectation opened up a world of authentic vital ministry.
Thank you Henri Nouwen for sharing your faith story and inspiring others to move from the expected to the amazing.