7.11.10

"Spiritual Formation" by Henri Nouwen



Henri Nouwen, with Michael J. Christensen and Rebecca J. Laird. Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of The Spirit. Harper One, 2010. 161 Pages. 

Henri Nouwen is one of those spiritual giants who are humble and small in stature and yet still manage to stand astride the landscape.  I have read and enjoyed many of his books, and plan on rereading most of them over time.  This particular book is a collection of previously published material arranged and republished by Christensen and Laird.  

It is an outline of some of the major movements in spiritual formation, and the different stages of that formation.  So, it is divided into three parts: Early, Midlife, and Mature movements.  In each section, Nouwen urges the reader to move away from a negative spiritual stance (like illusion) and towards a positive one (like prayer).  Along the way, the reader finds interesting parables and stories, as well as insights from mystics past, and, of course, much scriptural teaching. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It is, however, not a book that I can read and fully appreciate all at once.  Let me explain.  I have read the entire book, but much of it is full of teaching that I simply cannot follow yet; I am not there yet.  I noticed this particularly in the third section of the book, on mature movements.  I appreciate what he is saying, but it is beyond me right now.  This is no criticism, it is just unusual.  This book is meant to be read over a lifetime.  That said, I enjoyed it a lot.  Nouwen's insights into the human heart are, as usual, profound and moving.  His wisdom in walking the path of Christ is very appreciated.  

Two sections I greatly appreciated were his thoughts on transforming time from chronos to kairos and his thoughts on Community. For time, he talks about changing it from bare sequencing, to time in which God is with us, sacred moments that we can fill with spiritual formation.  For community, Nouwen argues that community is not a place of safety and familiarity, but a place of forgiveness and celebration.  Those are just two examples from a book full of goodness.  

Conclusions: 5 Stars.  Recommended.  Though every chapter will not speak to where you are now, something will, making this book more than worthwhile.  

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