Henri Nouwen was a Catholic priest, author and teacher. Offering spiritual direction was a regular part of his life. In this posthumous book, two of his students use notes from his course in spiritual direction as well as some of his unpublished writing to outline Nouwen’s thoughts on the spiritual life. At the end of each chapter, you will find questions and exercises for journaling and reflection.
Spiritual direction is full of questions:
- Where do I begin?
- Where have I been and where am I going?
- What is prayer?
- Who is God for me?
According to Nouwen, we must develop “ears to hear” God. This is difficult because it requires leaving empty spaces in our lives so that God can come in. That can be frightening and unsettling to most of us who are accustomed to filling every moment up with something “useful.” Nouwen goes on to say:
“But even stronger than our fear of the empty space is our fear of actually hearing the voice of God! We know that our God is a jealous God who knows there is no other cure for our restlessness and deafness but finding our home in God. We know that God’s mercy is a severe mercy that does not coddle or spoil but cuts to the heart of where truth resides. And although we are unsatisfied and unfulfilled, we are not so sure that we want to go in the direction God might call us to go…”
This book is a wonderful introduction to the idea of spiritual direction, and the exercises, suggestions and questions it offers are a good starting point for anyone interested in going deeper.
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