God’s Beloved, A Spiritual Biography of Henri Nouwen
By Michael O’Laughlin
One of the reviewers has said of this book, “A biography of a soul – it shows us not how we can be more like Henri Nouwen but how, like him, we can become our own true selves: beloved of God.” That was my experience as I read this book.
I think some of the psychological tools used by the author to enhance the understanding of Henri Nouwen will be foreign to the general reader. As I was reading through the chapter where he goes on at length about the personality type that described Henri, I wondered where he was going and why he spent so much time with this. Later he does explain himself saying that he wanted to show how Henri was no exception to the traits of personality that shape us.
“I have relied heavily on the MBTI in writing this chapter because it sheds so much light on Henri’s surprising combination of greatness and weakness, vision and vulnerability. I believe that a good number of the more puzzling aspects of his personality can be explained as aspects of the ENFP personality type. By this I am saying that Nouwen was probably much more psychologically healthy than even he himself suspected.” (p 76)
The author then goes on to encourage each of us to be true to the personalities we have been given, not to simply follow in the footsteps of Henri Nouwen. I like that. Each of us has been given gifts of personality. We need to come to an acceptance of this and let God transform us in the ways he wants, use us in the ways he has for us, rather than trying to live to a standard of another person who may be fundamentally quite different than us. We will always learn from the experiences of another person but we are not expected by God to be like them. We are loved by God for who we are.