It seems like an odd choice, but I have just finished reading the book Sabbatical Journey: The Diary of His Final Year by Henri Nouwen and concluded that it is one of my new all-time favorite books. In some sort of mysterious way, the simple, intimate, honest reflections of a man (which were never intended for publication) have resonated with my heart in a special way and encouraged me in my pursuit of Jesus.
Nouwen, a Catholic priest, died sadly and suddenly within three weeks of the conclusion of a year-long sabbatical during which he committed to daily journaling. The back cover describes him as “an author of more than 40 books (none of which I have read, I might add, but all of which I will now try to get my hands on and read), is considered one of the great spiritual writers of modern times. He taught at the University of Notre Dame, Harvard, and Yale but shared the last ten years of his life with people with mental handicaps as pastor of the L’Arche Daybreak community in Toronto, Canada.”
I was fascinated by his life: His communion with God, his authenticity in the midst of struggle and questions, his deep sense of community and friendship, his appreciation for culture, and his commitment to caring for the poor and the least of these. As I was reading his daily thoughts and reflections I found myself dreaming and longing for a deeper connection with God, a more authentic and meaningful sense of community with my family and friends, better and deeper conversations, and a more intentional and compassionate extension to the poor. In some strange way getting away from the x’s and o’s and how-to’s of so many books and just seeing the raw life of a man living well has inspired me in an intensely personal and powerful way. I have much to ponder and meditate on after reading this book, and I will revisit it often.