Friday, April 11, 2008

The Wounded Healer by Henri J. M. Nouwen

This is an awesome book, especially chapters 3 and 4. I have found it very helpful as a church worker. The description on the back of the copy I own summarizes it well: "According to Nouwen, ministers are called to identify the suffering in their own hearts and make that recognition the starting point of their service. For Nouwen, ministers must be willing to go beyond their professional, somewhat aloof role and leave themselves open as fellow human beings with the same wounds and suffering as those they serve. In other words, we heal from our wounds."

In one part of the book, Nouwen gives a verbatim of a visit of a theology student with a man who is going to have surgery. He examines the dialogue in the visit and talks about why the student did not make a meaningful connection with the man. Nouwen also really delves into the loneliness people experience, and how people in the ministry actually experience a double loneliness, but how understanding one's wounds instead of ignoring them or closing oneself off from them actually becomes the point of connection with others since all people experience loneliness and suffering.

Some quotes from the book:

"For one man needs another to live, and the deeper he is willing to enter into the painful condition which he and others know, the more likely it is that he can be a leader, leading his people out of the desert into the promised land."

" one can help anyone without becoming involved, without entering with his whole person into the painful situation, without taking the risk of becoming hurt, wounded or even destroyed in the process. The beginning and the end of all Christian leadership is to give your life for others."

" God can save us except a suffering man can lead his people except the man who is crushed by its sins."

"A Christian leader is a man of hope whose strength in the final analysis is based neither on self-confidence derived from his personality, nor on specific expectations for the future, but on a promise given to him."

"A minister is not a doctor whose primary task is to take away pain. Rather, he deepens the pain to a level where it can be shared."

"Therefore ministry is a very confronting service. It does not allow people to live with illusions of immortality and wholeness. It keeps reminding others that they are mortal and broken, but also that with the recognition of this condition, liberation starts."

"Community arises where the sharing of pain takes place, not as a stifling form of self-complaint, but as a recognition of God's saving promises."

Such good stuff. All people in the ministry should have to read this book!

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