One Word 365 has put forth a challenge for 2014: pick a word meaningful to you, and… see what happens. Some of my friends have chosen words like "serenity" (NOT the Firefly ship… sigh), or "leadership", or "intention", or "family", or "read".
Being the slightly frustrated rebel that I am, I picked a person — Henri Nouwen. He wrote such works as "The Way of the Heart" and "The Wounded Healer". I'm not sure why his name was the first that fluttered through my person when I decided that was the route I was going to take; but since the purpose was NOT to think TOO much about our words, I simply went with it. Nouwen it was.
Nouwen being such a spiritual guy, in my mind, full of wisdom and learning and love for all people, I envisioned myself tenatively but gloriously following in his footsteps throughout the year. Dressed in a chic scarf, a sturdy (but punky & cute) set of boots, a leather courier bag, and a hand-knit beanie, I would wander up and down cobble-stoned streets discovering the forgotten places of the world where Nouwen found himself… and God. In fact, my first impression of myself looked rather like Julia Roberts in "Eat Pray Love" (which I didn't particularly like, to be honest).
Okay, so she isn't wearing a trendy set of Doc Martens; but she is being kind of cheeky indulging in taboo behaviour next to nuns doing exactly the same thing. I could go for some gelato on my road with Nouwen; I could sit beside some nuns, whether I understood Italian or not, and soak up some mystic wisdom; I could lug along my precious handmade Phasha journal and my MacBook Pro, find a little cafe over a hundred years old, and write and type out the deep, profound moments of my journey; I could globe-trot, picking up clues here and there about how or why Nouwen believed what he believed, and how he came to be this hippie-priest-Christ-follower that he did.
You probably can't see my perfectly broken in Doc Martens, because I'm actually wearing horrendously heavy Sorel boots that come up all the way to my knees. My scarf isn't cute at all, has my frozen breath building up on it making breathing both cold, warm and damp all at the same time, and I think some snow has gotten in between my heavy-duty mitts and my wrists… owww.
Hardly the romanticized view of following in Nouwen's footsteps if you ask me. But I live in northern Alberta, and such weather is to be expected. However I need to note for the record that we've already received more than our average share of snowfall this season. If you never hear from me again, send in those super-nosey avalanche dogs. Preferrably with some high-stakes booze.
It's probably not the time or place for gelato, nor will I find any quaint Euro-style cafes around to sit and ponder great thoughts. Instead, I'll be holed up inside my little basement suite, tapping at the keyboard, layered up with t-shirts, fleece hoodies, wool socks and old jeans. A mug of tea or two will keep me company (and warm), and I'll begin my journey with a snowbank of questions:
- Why, Nouwen, did you choose this Jesus person to begin with? (gotta say, our world is pretty polarized in this regard. Why even start at a pole?)
- Who were some of the most influential people in your life? Did their influence change as you changed? (I ask because some of the people who most influenced me in my early Christian walk are people that kind of/sort of/really make me cringe now. Perhaps that says more about me than anything else.)
- How did you overcome the pressure-cooker need for correct orthodoxy and simply love? (WHAM!)
- When you say you loved all people, did you really mean ALL people? (do you realize how Christians are tearing ourselves apart here?)
- How do wounded healers actually have anything to offer exploited people — people wounded in such specific and precise ways? (I've never been trafficked… and my wounds are what now?)
- What was your favourite flavour of gelato? (Who knows? Maybe I will get to wander down those cobblestoned streets at some point, find some handmade creamy bliss, & soak up the wisdom of the ages all around me.)
In snow or in Julia Roberts' world, I'm at the beginning. I'm sure there will be other words joining us on the way: "wounded", "heart", "soul", "healer", "redemption", "temptation", "grief"… words that I want to hear and words that I don't want to hear. But if I'm to have a conversation with a man now long-passed away, I cannot focus on one of his words and ignore his others (I think Jesus has this issue with some of us… snap!). I'm at full liberty to disagree with this words, but probably not to just ignore them. Others will hit me like a ton of snow, cold and easily suffocating. And still others will see me nod, say "Hmmm!" and carry on.
Here we go.
All right, Nouwen, where to?