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by Harold Myra


Commentary(Part 2)

Continued from previous article

Henri Nouwen's recent death saddened a surprisingly diverse range of Christians. What was there about this Dutch Catholic priest and Ivy League professor that so profoundly affected us?

In 1982 I was part of a Leadership journal interview team waiting in O'Hare Airport for Henri Nouwen. Nouwen got there first, a bit disheveled from the trip, his brown hair askew, his briefcase bulging. He immediately engaged us with friendly questions, his smile wide beneath horn-rimmed glasses. But one question made me wonder. "Are Leadership and Christianity Today really together?" he asked. Did he have some misgivings about us in light of some anti-Catholic articles in the early ct? Did he wonder if we could be trusted? As I was pondering this, thinking he'd be on his guard, Nouwen did something astonishing. He began telling us that in the previous week he had had what sounded like a nervous breakdown. He had been ministering in the Pacific Northwest, and in front of a group of Christians suddenly said, "I just can't go on. I have nothing to give." He had sat down before them and wept. But "these dear people," Nouwen told us, terribly concerned and compassionate, came and ministered to him, taking him off to a retreat center.

This was not vulnerability for effect. The man had made himself "totally vulnerable" among possibly semi-hostile journalists, admitting that he was not only wounded and broken in the spiritual sense, but truly at the end of himself. The interview was lively and rich, but what lodged in me for a very long time was Nouwen's spiritual presence, his brokenness, his disregard for reputation, his focus on God's sufficiency. That evening I took a long walk, uplifted, energized, with a tremendous sense of God's presence.

Ron Wilson, executive director of the Evangelical Press Association, writes in his book Stretching the Soul about an experience common to many. His beloved wife of many years had recently died. His friend Russ Reid had told ...

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