Wednesday, October 18, 2017

You Are The Beloved

Years ago, I first encountered the work of Henri J.M. Nouwen when a neighbor lent me a copy of The Genesee Diary because he knew of my love for Kathleen Norris' The Cloistered Walk and the writing of Thomas Merton. While I always admired the theological wisdom of Merton, I deeply connected with the more vulnerable Nouwen. There was something revealingly honest about Henri Nouwen's books that drew me in and made me feel as if he were opening his heart to me in the words he had written. I began to read anything I could get my hands on by him. The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming had the greatest impact on me of all of Nouwen's books. It, along with books like Can You Drink The Cup? and The Way of the Heart and Life of the Beloved, are all works of his that I find myself returning to again and again.

The latest book to be published posthumously since Nouwen's death in 1996 is You Are The Beloved: Daily Meditations for Spiritual Living. Normally, I am not one for devotionals, feeling like I am only getting a taste, like a free sample at a store, when I want more of a meal. While I still want to read more than the smaller passages that accompany each day's reading, there is a depth and discernment to Nouwen's writing that I find myself truly meditating on each day's reflections.

In his book Here and Now, Henri Nouwen wrote, "Spiritual reading is ... reading in a spiritual way... with a desire to let God come closer to us... not to master knowledge or information but to let God's Spirit master us... spiritual reading means to let ourselves be read by God!"

This is exactly what Nouwen offers us in his own writing. Because he allows the reader to see that out of his own loneliness, his own woundedness, he discovered the truth of, "You are the Beloved of God." That is the focus of these meditations extracted from his previous writings. He mentions his own struggles and how he often didn't "feel" like a beloved child of God, but that he knew it was his "most primal identity" and that he had to choose that identity above any of his hesitations of unworthiness. This identity is founded in the understanding that God isn't distant, but is compassionate. When we realize that God is a "God-with-us" then "we enter into a new relationship of intimacy with him." God is a close God, a God of refuge, one who's our stronghold, our wisdom, our helper, our shepherd and our love.

In You Are The Beloved, the subjects range from loneliness, identity, solitude, community, prayer, the nature of God, peace, grace, meditation, as well as dealing with pain and suffering. The passages in the book made me want to go back to the books that they were originally from and reread those. I find that even the words I find familiar are also read in a new light, as I am in a completely different spiritual place in my life than when I read many of these books years ago. As he writes, "As I grow older, I discover more and more that the greatest gift I have to offer is my own joy of living, my own inner peace, my own silence and solitude, my own sense of well-being. When I ask myself, 'Who helps me the most?' I must answer, 'The one who is willing to share his or her life with me." By reading each of the 365 passages each day, one is, in a way, sharing his or her life with Nouwen, just as he is sharing his through his words.

This is a great entryway for anyone who has never read anything by Henri Nouwen before and is also a wonderful devotional book for those who know and love his writing and want to use these passages to either begin or end their day.

This title is not released until October 31, 2017.

1 comment:

  1. I love Nouwen's writing. Two of my favourites of his are The Road to Daybreak (in which he writes about the process that led him to work at the L'Arche community in Toronto) and The Return of the Prodigal Son. I agree that even short passages of his writing give lots of room for meditating on a deeper level, so a book of daily devotions sounds really good. Thanks for reviewing this.