Henri J. M. Nouwen

I have learned so much from reading Henri Nouwen and practicing his truths. One of his books that impacted me deeply is “Life of the Beloved.” He subtitled it “Spiritual Living in a Secular World.” He based his discussion to his friend Fred upon the principles of being taken (chosen), blessed, broken and given. I re-read this with some regularity.

I am certain you can obtain it new, used, online, as audiobook and/or at your local library. My copy is 119 pages. A rather easy read, but teaches deep wisdom it may take years to grasp for your own life.

If you are familiar with Scripture, you likely already know 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 (NRSV)  For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread,  and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” These words are often repeated in Communion. Nouwen says we too, are taken (and he means chosen out of the world), blessed, broken and given.

“The Lord Jesus took a loaf of bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it”

I am uncertain how much I can quote without infringing legally, but here are a few of his ideas. “The great spiritual battle begins – and never ends – with the reclaiming of our chosenness. Being chosen is the basis for being the Beloved. It is a lifelong struggle to claim that chosenness, but also a lifelong joy. ” He stresses that this is not a competition or one upmanship over others. This is the work of God, not men. We are taken by God.

Blessed: “I know how moody you and I can be. One day we feel great, the next we feel miserable.These mood swings show that we no longer hear the blessing that was heard by Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob, Leah and Rachel and Jesus of Nazareth and that we, too, are to hear. …When we continue to hear the deep gentle voice that blesses us, we can walk through life with a stable sense of well-being and true belonging.”

“The feeling of being blessed is not, it seems to me, the feeling that we generally have about ourselves.” He suggests “claiming your blessedness by cultivation of presence. By presence I mean attentiveness to the blessings that come to you day after day, year after year.” There are entire movements now supporting this practice. Nouwen was on to it in 1992 when he published this and likely for years before! I must say it helped when just a few moments ago I was measuring bleach for the laundry load and dropped the entire bottle of bleach into the washer. First off, I was so grateful the clothes were not yet in the washer and I could simply set it to rinse and drain! Second off, it would have been so much worse had I dropped it on myself or the floor!

I will address his concepts of broken and given on another day.

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