Four essays by Nouwen on power, peace, waiting, living and dying. Nouwen was a Catholic Priest, a mystic. He offers a lot of insights into the Christian life. Obviously he writes from his Catholic background and his writings reflect his theology. I don’t agree with him completely of course, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t learn from him.
His insights into human behavior are spot on. For example, he writes on power: “God looks at us and weeps because wherever we use power to give us a sense of ourselves, we separate ourselves from God and each other, and our lives become diabolic, in the literal meaning of that word: divisive.” (29) He goes on and says, “The most insidious, divisive, and wounding power is the power used in the service of God.” (31). I find this to be true.
I agree with this theology of weakness, I see this in the New Testament. He writes:
“A theology of weakness challenges us to look at weakness not as a worldly weakness that allows us to be manipulated by the powerful in society and church, but as a total and unconditional dependence on God that opens us to be true channels of the divine power that heals the wounds of humanity and renews the face of the earth. The theology of weakness claims power, God’s power, the all-transforming power of love.” (42)
My favorite which makes this book worth reading is his essay on peace. He uses the example of Raymond to whom he becomes the primary caretaker. Raymond is completely unable to do anything by himself and yet as Nouwen becomes his caretaker everyday, dressing him, bathing him, putting him to bed he sees the value in him. Raymond’s “particular gift of peace is rooted in his being and in his heart and it always calls forth community.” He goes on to explain how he does it.
Nouwen explains that Raymond has taught him that peace “is not primarily about doing. It is first of all the art of being.” (65). Philosophical but he makes sense as he discovers this with Raymond. Peace comes from the Prince of Peace when we focus on him and we are who we are meant to be. That will bring us peace.
He gets philosophical in many respects, which I enjoy but again don’t agree with everything. One thing is certain about Nouwen, he lived what he preached. His struggles were just as real as all of us are.
My least favorite essay was the the one on living and dying. A lot of focus is on the death of Jesus and sending the Spirit which he makes analogous to our dying. Don’t think that’s so. The death of Jesus is not where we draw our hope but on his resurrection. Jesus was clear, “I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me though dead shall live.” There is really no Spirit of Love that remains with us from people. Nouwen get really metaphysical here. He is trying to hold on to those have passed on to eternity (from what I read his theology is that all people go to heaven because everyone is a child of God).