Often I have thought of writing a book. I have a friend who owns a publishing company who prods me from time to time. Part of me longs for the time to give to writing. Other parts of me fear the outcome. After all, once your book is out there is is open to (mis)understanding.
You know, as a parent you invest in your child. For good or bad you help shape character and influence decisions. One day those children will step out of your shadow and make their own choices. People scrutinize these choices and look at the tree from which the apples have fallen. Judgments follow.
Reading the last chapter of Henri Nouwen’s Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World, left me feeling as though Henir got this same sense not from children but from his books. Publishing Life of the Beloved did not come without the pain of someone admiring your child but not finding him/her much help.
Fred Bratman, long time friend of Nouwen, told Henri his book was good; as in he liked his writing. But, the hope Fred had in asking Nouwen to write such a book became an unrealized expectation. Bratman told Nouwen he wrote in “insider” language. For a moment Henri thought about not publishing the manuscript. Then, a couple of “insiders” affirmed what was written and Nouwen determined to live into who he was. And so his piece became a work for “insiders” thinking about how to communicate deep and important realities to “outsiders.”
Nouwen may not have connected with Bratman on that level. but, he opens up important human themes enabling we “insiders” to consider the human condition and how to speak into those circumstances with the love of God and compassion of Jesus and the inspiration of the Spirit. Capturing what it means to become “the Beloved” provides a helpful way to think about the varied situations people face. If nothing else, Henri gave the reader a way to think about others.; “others” who may well be on their way to discovering both The Beloved and being the beloved.