What is included with this book?
|Introduction : spiritual direction|
|Who will answer my questions?||p. 3|
|Where do I begin?||p. 16|
|Who am I?||p. 26|
|Where have I been and where am I going?||p. 38|
|What is prayer?||p. 55|
|Who is God for me?||p. 71|
|How do I hear the Word?||p. 86|
|Where do I belong?||p. 109|
|How can I be of service?||p. 128|
|Epilogue : where do I go from here?||p. 147|
|Living the questions : ten parables of Henri Nouwen||p. 153|
|How to find a spiritual director||p. 155|
|Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.|
Who Will Answer My Questions?
A buddhist monk once came to visit me and told me the following story:
The Zen Master
Many years ago, there was a young man who searched for truth, happiness, joy, and the right way of living. After many years of traveling, many diverse experiences, and many hardships, he realized that he had not found any answers for his questions and that he needed a teacher. One day he heard about a famous Zen Master. Immediately he went to him, threw himself at his feet, and said: "Please, Master, be my teacher."
The Master listened to him, accepted his request, and made him his personal secretary. Wherever the Master went, his new secretary went with him. But although the Master spoke to many people who came to him for advice and counsel, he never spoke to his secretary. After three years, the young man was so disappointed and frustrated that he no longer could restrain himself. One day he burst out in anger, saying to his Master: "I have sacrificed everything, given away all I had, and followed you. Why haven't you taught me?" The Master looked at him with great compassion and said: "Don't you understand that I have been teaching you during every moment you have been with me? When you bring me a cup of tea, don't I drink it? When you bow to me, don't I bow to you? When you clean my desk, don't I say: 'Thank you very much'?"
The young man could not grasp what his Master was saying and became very confused. Then suddenly the Master shouted at the top of his voice: "When you see, you see it direct." At that moment the young man received enlightenment.7
The distance between a Zen Master in the Far East teaching an eager young student and a Chris-tian spiritual director in the West responding to a spiritual seeker might seem a wide bridge to cross. Still, this story powerfully points to the wisdom we need to live the questions of our lives, both alone and in community, as we seek our mission in the world.
The young man in the Zen story has unspoken but urgent questions: What is truth? How may I find joy and happiness? What is the right way of living? To his, we might add our own life questions: What am I to do with my life? Whom shall I marry? Where shall I live? What gifts do I have to share? What do I do with my loneliness? Why am I so needy for affection, approval, or power? How can I overcome my fears, my shame, my addictions, and my sense of inadequacy or of failure?
Once, quite a few years ago, I had the opportunity of meeting Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I was struggling with many things at the time and decided to use the occasion to ask Mother Teresa's advice. As soon as we sat down I started explaining all my problems and difficulties -- trying to convince her of how complicated it all was! When, after ten minutes of elaborate explanation, I finally became quiet, Mother Teresa looked at me and quietly said: "Well, when you spend one hour a day adoring your Lord and never do anything which you know is wrong . . . you will be fine!"
When she said this, I realized, suddenly, that she had punctured my big balloon of complex self-complaints and pointed me far beyond myself to the place of real healing. Reflecting on this brief but decisive encounter, I realized that I had raised a question from below and that she had given an answer from above. At first, her answer didn't seem to fit my question, but then I began to see that her answer came from God's place and not from the place of my complaints. Most of the time we respond to questions from below with answers from below. The result is often more confusion. Mother Teresa's answer was like a flash of lightning in my darkness.
Seeking spiritual direction, for me, means to ask the big questions, the fundamental questions, the universal ones in the context of a supportive community. Out of asking the right questions and living the questions will come right actions that present themselves in compelling ways. To live the questions and act rightly, guided by God's spirit, requires both discipline and courage: discipline to "ask, seek, knock" until the door opens (see Matthew 7:78).
What questions are people asking?
You may not be able to formulate an ultimate life question right now. Sometimes we feel so much fear and anxiety, and identify so closely with our suffering, that our pain masks the questions. Once pain or confusion is framed or articulated by a question, it must be lived rather than answered. The first task of seeking guidance then is to touch your own struggles, doubts, and insecurities -- in short, to affirm your life as a quest.8 Your life, my life, is given graciously by God. Our lives are not problems to be solved but journeys to be taken with Jesus as our friend and finest guide.
This is where the ministry of spiritual direction -- along with the other interpersonal disciplines of the spiritual life: preaching, teaching, counseling, and pastoral care -- can help. These interpersonal resources are intended to help people find a friendly distance from their own lives so that what they are experiencing can be brought into the light in the form of a question to be lived.
A person of faith from long ago who asked and lived the difficult questions of existence was Job. A careful reading of the biblical Book of Job shows that Job's questions are "answered" by his friends, but not by God. As he lives his own questions in the face of suffering, all Job can say is, "The Lord gives and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised" (Job 1:21).Spiritual Direction
Excerpted from Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith by Henri J. M. Nouwen, Henri J. Nouwen
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.