I have been reading this book by Henri Nouwen more as devotional reading than as a book to be read for head knowledge. So I have been going through it slowly. There is much to be digested as one goes along. Nouwen is always someone I have thought of as so intelligent, so spiritual and yet the things that he struggles with are not so different from what I struggle with; discouragement and depression, anger and even difficulty in connecting with God. This is probably the most encouraging thing about this book – his honesty and openness that show me more about how God relates to us as humans, his beloved children.
Here is something Nouwen said about Merton that I read just the other day. It struck me as being an important comment on what it means to be a “minister”. He says about Merton, “…his death has made him an even stronger catalyst that he was during his life. He indeed made his own life available to others to help them find their own – and not his – way. In this sense, he was and still is a true minister, creating the free space where others can enter and discover God’s voice in their lives.”
I like that phrase “creating the free space where others can enter and discover God’s voice in their lives.” It emphasises the fact that it is God who we need to hear, not the one that ministers even though I believe God often uses people to speak his words to us.
So in this sense Nouwen is also a minister to me. He helps me to see that I am a beloved child of God. Reading about his struggles, which seem so familiar, opens me to the acceptance of myself as a child of the father, creating this free space where I can hear God calling me to live and listen for his voice.
Other people also play the role of “minister” in my life and I thank God that he has put them there. Most of these people do not bear the formal title of Minister, most are friends. My spouse plays that role often and I am thankful for the free space he gives me to follow God in the ways that are most significant for me.
Maybe the most important question that arises for me from this statement is “Can I do this for others?” I am hoping so but the only way to see this is from a long way down the path looking back, I think. So I pray I may be sensitive both to God and to others creating this kind of a place where people discover God more deeply for themselves.