What prompts a 37-year-old woman to spend a year journeying with the writing of a Catholic priest who died more than 20 years ago?
Drawn by Henri Nouwen’s profound love of community, deep faith, ability to accept things he could not change, childlike love of celebration, and desire to stay connected and be faithful to his friends, I've discovered a kindred spirit in Henri and, in turn, discovered the woman I want to be.
Perhaps more than anything, my year-long journey with Henri has revealed the slow power of presence in our productivity-obsessed age.
“His entire life, in fact, displayed a "holy inefficiency,” writes Philip Yancey in a CT Magazine article published shortly after Henri's death in 1996. An intense young man had reached out to Yancey, Richard Foster, Eugene Peterson, and Nouwen by letter. "You won't believe what Nouwen did," Foster told the other men over dinner. "He invited this stranger to live with him for a month so he could mentor him in person.”
Most writers jealously protect their schedules and privacy but Nouwen broke down such barriers of professionalism. It is this kind of holy inefficiency — a love revealed in open hands — that I believe our world is desperately searching for.
What does it mean to be fully human in a world that's increasingly digital and obsessed with efficiency? How have we been co-opted into the corporate push for productivity over presence and what have we lost in the process? What can we learn from the holy inefficiency of Henri Nouwen, one of 20th century’s most important and prolific spiritual voices?
These are some of the questions I'm exploring in my next book, created with generous support from the Henri Nouwen Society.