In this little book, Henri Nouwen, who was a Catholic priest, educator and writer takes on the task of trying to explain spiritual life to his secular, Jewish friend. For Henri, that life begins with understanding that we are created, loved and chosen by God. We must experience His love and feel gratitude for how He has blessed us; then we pass that love and blessing along by serving others. Society constantly encourages us to compete, to excel and to compare ourselves to a worldly version of “success.” Often this means we see ourselves as failures, or we force ourselves into a mold that looks good to our culture, but doesn’t fulfill our deepest, God-given desires and abilities. According to Nouwen:
“Spiritually you do not belong to the world. And this is precisely why you are sent into the world. Your family and your friends, your colleagues and your competitors, and all the people you meet on your journey through life are all searching for more than survival. Your presence among them as the one who is sent will allow them to catch a glimpse of the real life.”
In the epilogue we learn that according to Henri’s friend, the book is a failure. He tells him, “you do not realize how far we are from where you are.” However a number of Christian friends assure him to “trust what is there (in the book) will bear fruit.” It becomes the basis for a course on “The Life of the Beloved” at the Servant Leadership School of the Church of the Savior in Washington D.C. Nouwen muses about how ironic it is that he tried so hard to write something for secular folks and the ones helped by it were searching Christians. The point, I think is this:
“But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him in the heavenly places that in the coming age he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of your own doing, it is the gift of God — not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:5-10
He made us, He loved us, He chose us, and He will use us in ways we would never expect.