My husband is a big fan of Henri Nouwen. He was a big fan before he ever met me. I had never read anything about Nouwen until my husband introduced me to him. We have many of the over 40 published books on our bookshelves by this spiritual writer. Yesterday, my husband picked up two more books by Nouwen and pictured above is the one he bought for me (The Dance of Life: Weaving Sorrows and Blessings into One Joyful Step). This book is Nouwen's writings edited by Michael Ford.
Nouwen has been described as a "wounded healer" and his spiritual reflections, I have found, remind me a little of my own writing and reflections. I told my husband this irony last night and we both laughed because Nouwen was kind of a mess--in my husband's words. However, despite his woundedness, he is actually quite inspiring in a simple, humble and day-to-day way. As the back of this book reads, "At the heart of Henri Nouwen's theology is the idea that the spiritual life is a process of embracing our imperfections and finding the transforming power of God at work within us." Nouwen himself once wrote, "I wanted to write...because it is my growing conviction that my life belongs to others just as much as it belongs to myself and that what is experienced as most unique often proves to be most solidly embedded in the common condition of being human."
Here is one more reflection from Nouwen found on page 42 of The Dance of Life:
It is a sign of spiritual maturity when we can give up our illusory self-control and stretch out our hands to God. But it would be just another illusion to believe that reaching out to God will free us from pain and suffering. Often, indeed, it will take us where we rather would not go. But we know that without going there we will not find our life. "Anyone who loses his life...will find it" (Matt. 16:25), Jesus says, reminding us that love is purified in pain.
Prayer, therefore, is far from sweet and easy. Being the expression of our greatest love, it does not keep pain away from us. Instead, it makes us suffer more since our love for God is a love for a suffering God and our entering into God's intimacy is an entering into the intimacy where all of human suffering is embraced in divine compassion. To the degree that our prayer has become the prayer of our heart, we will love more and suffer more, we will see more light and more darkness, more grace and more sin, more of God and more of humanity."
If you are interested in reading more of Henri Nouwen, I would recommend his best-selling books: Can You Drink the Cup and With Open Hands. I also think The Dance of Life would be a good introduction as well. We happen to own all of these and many more if you'd like to borrow one from us.