Tag Archives: henri nouwen

reposting Nouwen, wounded healer

A little known fact of my weakchristian blog is that over the few years, thousands and thousands of hits have come from people who have search-engined for “wounded healer, nouwen.”  As I re-enter blogging, I decided to re-read a post from 2007, which has garnered more clicks than anything I have posted.  It came after I had read Henri Nouwen’s 1979 book, Wounded Healer.  I am pasting it below, as it was a bit startling for me to read four years later – four years in which I have seen the awesome tumult of the Lord’s work in planting a church in the secular, postmodern, broken, excessively spiritual and busy-professional culture of the Northeast.  The crazy task of conversational pastoring. Wow how the words apply…

_____

Henri Nouwen, the renown and reflective catholic priest, wrote a classic in 1979 called The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society. His thesis is simple: “In our own woundedness [weakness!!] we can become a source of life for others.”  If you have never read Nouwen – it will stretch you.  Theologically – OK, he is not protestant nor committed to covenantal reformed theology – BUT he had a passion to enable catholic priests and ministers to think differently about their ministry and the people/culture to whom they minister.  Thus, there is much we can learn from him.

In Wounded Healer Nouwen writes in 1979(!) about the cultural shift we are living in TODAY.  He writes about how the minister of tomorrow must have a different angle of ministry from ministers in the past if he would engage the “nuclear man” (his term for “postmodern man”) in today’s disjointed, pluralistic, internal, tribal society.  Just thought I would share one part of the book.  So here you have it: a catholic priest wrote something the year after I was born about the kind of weakness-ministry that I am trembling before God about today as I contemplate gospel ministry in our needy and weak world.  The backdrop of Nouwen’s words is a discussion about how, for the ”nuclear man,” culture has shifted.  The culture of traditional and authoritarian spirituality has become a culture of internal spirituality. Does that not sound post-modern and accurate?!

Since the God “out there” or “up there” is more or less dissolved in the many secular structures, the God within asks attention as never before… The first and most basic task required of the minister of tomorrow therefore is to clarify the immense confusion which can arise when people enter this new internal world.  It is a painful fact indeed to realize how poorly prepared most Christian leaders prove to be when they are invited to be spiritual leaders in the true sense.  Most of them are used to thinking in terms of large-scale organization, getting people together in churches, schools and hospitals, and running the show as a circus director.  They have become unfamiliar with, and even somewhat afraid of, the deep and significant movements of the spirit.

In this context pastoral conversation is not merely a skillful use of conversational techniques to manipulate people into the Kingdom of God, but a deep human encounter in which a man is willing to put his own faith and doubt, his own hope and despair, his own light and darkness at the disposal of others who want to find a way through their confusion and touch the solid core of life.  In this context preaching means more than handing over a tradition; it is rather the careful and sensitive articulation of what is happening in the community so that those who listen can say: “You say what I suspected, you express what I vaguely felt, you bring to the fore what I fearfully kept in the back of my mind.  Yes, yes – you say who we are, you recognize our condition…”

When listening man is able to say this, then the ground is broken for others to receive the Word of God.  And no minister need doubt that the Word will be received!  The young especially do not have to run away from their fears and hopes but can see themselves in the face of the man who leads them; he will make them understand the words of salvation which in the past often sounded to them like words from a strange and unfamiliar world.

Thank you Nouwen.  When I was 1, you were calling for pastoral ministry from the angle of ‘weakness transparency.’  What a calling.  What a risk.  What a thrill.  Sign me up.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , ,

rediscovering something old

I am rediscovering weakness… or even pursuing it again.  I think, I pray, I hope with a new actual awareness (or alomost awareness) of all the weak and broken parts of myself that the Lord has shown me over the past year.  Indeed it was a year ago that I enjoyably blogged about discovering the gospel in weakness, reading and recording the thoughts of Henri Nouwen (Wounded Healer) or  Richard Sibbes (The Bruised Reed) or Kyle Strobel (Metaphorpha) or just my own musing thoughts.

Through the past year, the Lord has, I think, shown me his Fatherly affection by placing me over his knee and WHACK.  Chastening the child he loves.  Showing me my personal fear of weakness/sin/struggle even as I “theologically” engaged it with passion.  Putting me in a place where the wrestling match with weakness was… hell.   May I say with truth and candor: church planting has been the most difficult life experience, even as God has grown his church and planted us in the “west valley.”    I am so thankful for the fog of last Fall, and the slow unfolding of a spiritual Spring over the past few months.  I have seen life come from death.  Energy returned.  Weakness confessed.  Habits exposed.  Righteousness (my own) revealed as filthy.  Gifts (preaching and teaching) used as a cop-out for true pastoral leadership.  Otherness revealed as a serious weakness.  Exhaustion evidencing gospel-thirst.  Excessive work falsely defined as “success.”  Being at home with my family confronted with what it truly is to “be home” and undistracted.  Loving my wife compared to laying my life down for her.  On we could go.

Maybe this is what freedom feels like.

We are in confining quarters, indeed, when we are enclosed in self, but when we emerge  from that prison, and enter into the immensity of God and the liberty of his children, we are truly free.

Though it sounds strange to say it I am rejoicing that God has reduced [me] to a state of weakness.  Oh, how painful, but how beneficial these times of weakness!  As long as any self-love is remaining, we are always afraid it will be revealed.  But God does not give up as long as the least symptom of it lurks in the innermost recesses of heart, God pursues it, and by some infinitely merciful blow, forces it into the open.  And the sight of the problem becomes the cure.  Self-love, forced into the light, sees itself as it really is in all its deformity and disgrace.  And in a moment, the flattering illusions of your whole selfish life are dissipated.  God sets before your eyes your idol: self.  You look at that spectacle, and you cannot turn your eyes away.  Nor can  you hide the sight from others.  To expose self-love in this way without its mask is the most mortifying punishment that can ever be inflicted.

When you finally see self for what it is, weakness has become your only possession.  Strength is not even in the picture.  And if you had any, it would only make the agony longer and more distressing.   If you die [to self] from weakness and weariness, you will die more quickly and less violently.

What, then, shall we do?  Do nothing.  Seek nothing.  Hold to nothing.  Simply confess everything, not as  a means of getting relief, but because of humble desire to yield unto Jesus. (Fenelon, Let Go)

But [Jesus] said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamaties, for when I am weak, then I am strong.  (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

O Lord my God, thank you for this church planting weakness exposition – all for your glory and display of your grace.  Amen.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,