Nouwen's writing always stirs something up in me with regard to developing a deeper love of Jesus and love for others. His books have a simple spirituality about them that is humble, intimate, authentic, and understandable. In all his writing and public ministry Nouwen's love for Jesus and for the church are clearly evident. I would recommend to all Christians that they should spend a little time reading Nouwen. Beyond being very wise, his books are both short and accessible for all reading levels.
In The Way of the Heart Nouwen examines the ministry, the lives and the example of the Desert Fathers and Mothers of the 4th Century. These were men and women who left contemporary society and moved into the desert in order to grow closer with Christ and serve him more single-mindedly. Nouwen takes the example, the teaching and the anecdotes from this pursuit and he applies them to men and women today who are desiring to give their lives more fully to God and to experiencing a deeper union with Christ. He builds this application around three practices learned from the the Desert Fathers - solitude, silence, and unceasing prayer. I have included some of what I found to be the most meaningful quotes from each section below.
We move through life in such a distracted way that we do not even take the time and rest to wonder if any of the things we think, say or do are even worth thinking, saying and doing.
- solitude is the furnace for transformation
- anyone who wants to fight his demons with his own weapons is a fool
- Mother Teresa affirmed again the truth that ministry can be fruitful only if it grows out of a direct and intimate encounter with our Lord
- compassion is the fruit of solitude and the basis of all ministry
- compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to the place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken
"I have often repented of having spoken, but never of having remained silent." Arsenius
- silence completes and intensifies solitude
- speaking gets us involved in the affairs of the world, and it is very hard to be involved beaching entangled and polluted by the world
- our first and foremost task is faithfully to care for the inward fire so that when it is really needed it can offer warmth and light to lost travelers
- a word with power is a word that comes out of silence
- our task is to help people concentrate on the real but often hidden event of God's active presence in their lives
- the crisis of our prayer life is that our mind may be filled with thoughts of God but our heart remains far from him
- a simple, easily repeated prayer cans lowly empty our our crowded interior life and create the quiet space where we cant well with God
- prayer helps us discern which of our activities are for the glory of God and which are primarily for the glory of the uncovered ego
Our compulsive, wordy, mid-oriented world has a firm grip on us, and we need a very strong, persistent discipline not to be squeezed out by it.