Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Finding My Way Home, Pathways to Life and the Spirit, by Henri Nouwen

In this book Nouwen, one of the greatest spiritual writers of our time, speaks of the concept of power and of powerlessness, understood in various ways.  First, power as related to success and productivity, measured by how busy we are, what work we do, what our accomplishments are, how many friends we have, how much money we make, how our children do, and what our titles are.   People with this kind of power tend to force, enslave, and to cause envy and fear in others.  They can go where they want, and do whatever they want to do.  The author says that God wants nothing to do with this kind of power; in fact, God has chosen the path of powerlessness, coming into our world as a tiny baby, totally vulnerable and dependent on others. 

God became human, in the mystery of the Incarnation.  And where did this bring Jesus, the incarnate God?  It brought him to the cross, where he refused to save himself from death and suffering by a show of power.  It was only after redeeming humankind by freely offering his life,
that Jesus rose again, using his divine power to complete the Paschal Mystery.  In his ministry Jesus  taught, "Blessed are the poor", Blessed are they who mourn."  His self-portrait is that of the powerlessness of God.  He used only the power to forgive sins, the power to heal, the power to bring life, the power to multiply food for hungry people.

Nouwen also explores powerlessness which can be interpreted as weakness, being totally overcome, but the theology of powerlessness can also claim the power of God, admitting of one's weakness, and relying on the transforming power of God's love.  It is through our admission of powerlessness that we can become brothers and sisters together in need of God.                                                       

Nouwen speaks eloquently of the path of peace, of the path of waiting, of life and death, and he dwells on his favorite topic, that we are God's beloved.  He says that if we truly believe in this relationship, we will not be so afraid when the day comes for us to leave this life and to be with the God Who loves us with an unconditional love.

This review is one of several in this blog of a book by Henri Nouwen.  If you have not yet read any of his writings, please do.  His wisdom and insight, written in small, conversational style, easy-to-read form, will delight and inspire you.