As a practicing Christian, I like to read Christian literature to help with the growth of my faith and now I am a member of my church’s book club. After an interesting discussion about our second book, Surprised by Hope by Tom Wright, I was looking forward to reading our third book, Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World by Henri J. M. Nouwen.
When writing Life of the Beloved, Nouwen hoped it would be a book that could communicate to his dear, Jewish friend the powerful and loving invitation of Jesus Christ. Of how accepting that invitation can bring love, happiness and that acceptance we all seem to be chasing in the modern world. Sadly, Nouwen failed to communicate to his friend as he had wished. However, instead this has gone on to be a highly successful guide to living a truly uplifting life in many of today’s secular society; for Christians all over the world.
With Nouwen’s initial hope to communicate and reach out to his friend and other young people from the then growing secular population, he has written this sincere testimony – sharing his own experience of Jesus’ powerful work in his life and those around him – in a clear and down-to-earth manner. Which was easy to read, follow and reflect upon on, but this is clearly still the original edit because Nouwen often opens chapters directly speaking to his friend and referring to his friend’s life. While I give Nouwen kudos for being honest about his initial hope and so not editing the text – I did find it a little annoying as I am not his friend and his life stories are not expanded upon for those who don’t have their shared history.
Henri Jozef Machiel Nouwen was a Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian, who in his life worked and taught at the University of Notre Dame, Yale Divinity School and Harvard Divinity School. As well as working with individuals with mental and physical needs at the L’Arche Daybreak community in Ontario, USA. Having lived such a colourful, spiritual and productive life, Nouwen has a wealth of inspiring and touching experiences which he freely and candidly shares with us in this book; particularly from his time at L’Arche. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to share my thoughts on this at the book club meeting, as it landed in a crazily busy week for me which meant I couldn’t attend. I have since received positive feedback from the vicar along with further resources to check out.
In conclusion, I found Life of the Beloved to be a well-written and inspiring guide, that was a good boost for me; living in a majoritively secular society myself. Next up for the club, we will be reading and discussing The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis which will be a re-read for me. Good read.
Have you read this? Or anything else by Henri J. M. Nouwen?