For a man of prayer is, in final analysis, the man who is able to recognize in others the face of the Messiah and make visible what was hidden, make touchable what was unreachable. The man of prayer is a leader precisely because through his articulation of God’s work within himself he can lead others out of confusion to clarification; through his compassion he can guide them out of the closed circuits of their own in-groups to the wide world of humanity; and through his critical contemplation he can convert their convulsive destructiveness into creative work for the new world to come. (The Wounded Healer by Henri J. M. Nouwen)
So I’m looking at the bookshelf in my office today— looking for something or other—when my eye is caught by a familiar title that somehow seemed to leap off the shelf and grab me. It wasn’t so much that it was by one of my favorite authors, Henri Nouwen, who has had as much impact on my spiritual journey through the years as anyone I can think of, but it was more the title that caught my attention: The Wounded Healer. Maybe it’s just the season I find myself in. Maybe it’s just that the older I get the more I realize the beauty and the necessity of ministering from such a place. Maybe it was what I had for lunch…I don’t know. But whatever it was, it caused me to pick it up again. Picking up an old book for me is like sitting down to lunch with a dear old friend; it stops me. I have to sit down with it and get reacquainted; catch up, hear its voice again, and remember what it has to say to me. And when I picked up this old friend once again the words above are the first that I read. Pretty good, huh? And as I continued to read, the smile quickly began to spread across my face, and the words quickly began to warm my heart. It is almost as if I could sense the smile of the Father upon me as He led me to the shelf and watched the scene unfold…like the feeling you get when you have the perfect gift for someone and can’t wait to see them open it.
Years ago I made a realization that when I am at my best spiritually, when the soil of my soul seems most fertile and my ears most attentive to the whispers of His Spirit, I am practicing, in addition to my other normal practices, the discipline of spiritual reading. It means I’ve got some book going that is offering a fresh voice and a fresh breath to my heart and soul. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I am spending a lot of time reading it, often it is no more than 15-20 minutes a day. It just means that I am taking care to make the space each day for the practice to occur. And my heart responds.
It looks like I have found a good friend to journey with for the next few weeks. And I am excited. Thanks be to God!
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