This was a choice suggested by a friend with providential timing. I think I started it around the first of the year and have been reading a few pages here and there. It is Nouwen's journal from a season when he left 20+ years of academia to live in a community setting with handicapped people both for his own retreat and also to serve as their pastor. The book specifically details the year of visiting the different locations of the le'Arche communities to pursue and define God's call for him before he moved permanently into the community in Canada.
It is his journal, a travelogue on Europe, a thesis on prayer and intimacy with Christ, and a window into the world of the truly poor in spirit. One of the moist poignant experts I bring away from this is best quoted exactly:
"To choose the little people, the little joys, and to trust that it is there that God will come close - that is the hard way of Jesus. Again, I felt a deep resistance to choosing that way.
I am quite willing to work for and even with little people, but I want it to be a great event! Something in me always wants to turn the way of Jesus into a way that is honorable in the eyes of the world. I always want the little way to become the big way. But Jesus' movement toward the places the world wants to move away from cannot be made a success story.
Every time we think we have touched a place of poverty, we will discover greater poverty beyond that place. There is really no way back to riches, wealth, success, acclaim, and prizes. Beyond physical poverty, there is mental poverty, beyond mental poverty, there is spiritual poverty, and beyond that there is nothing, nothing but the naked truth that God is mercy.
It is not a way that we can walk alone. Only with Jesus can we go to the place where there is nothing but mercy. It is the place from which Jeus cried, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" It is also the place from which Jesus was raised up to new life.
The way of Jesus can only be walked with Jesus. If I want to do it alone, it becomes a form of inverse humanism as fickle as heroism itself. Only Jesus, the Son of God, can walk to that place of total surrender and mercy. He warns us about striking off on our own: "cut off from me, you can do nothing. "But He also promises, "whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty" (John 15:5).
I see clearly now why action without prayer is so fruitless. It is only in and through prayer that we can become intimately connected with Jesus and find the strength to join Him on His way."
Overall opinion: I could start again and get completely new things this time through; it is best read as a journey itself, in small steps, with time for thought, conversation and community inbetween, it seems that he writes from his heart and soul, therefore it is relateable...irritating, convicting, and inspiring.
It reminded me that life is not about accomplishing my to do list, or making educational, spiritual or social achivements, but rather the people in it. (Read on, before you say, "No duh.") I can look back now on the years since college, and realize that each place I have lived has been a community, a place where I shared, learned, and grew in "reading" people, sharing in their lives and allowing them to share in mine. I would argue loudly to not being a "people person." That is I used to. Now I look forward to the times when I can "waste" time with someone. I can still get focused on the lists, but I would much rather get a cuppa something and just sit with you and hear your story. Today's the perfect dark, rainy day for such conversation, so come on over.