In his 1989 book, In the Name of Jesus, Henri Nouwen recounts a time of grave spiritual atrophy. Nouwen was a highly regarded Ivy League professor as well as an in-demand speaker and author. He was the toast of any town. And most impressive of all (to me), he was personal friends with Fred Rogers.
Nouwen was also growing increasingly empty inside. When an opportunity arose to work with Daybreak in Toronto, Henri bravely walked away from his old life and jumped into service for the intellectually disabled. He had gone from the pinnacle of renown in Christian circles to serving a marginalized group where there was sure to be little thanks and even less fame. And yet, he was revitalized during this time.
Once Henri had to go to a speaking engagement but did not want to go alone. He ended up taking “Bill” with him, one of the permanent residents at Daybreak, and the two had a great time. During breakfast the next day, Bill asked Henri if he had liked the trip. Henri said that, yes, he had enjoyed the trip very much. Bill responded with, “And we did it together, didn’t we?”
Henri writes: “Then I realized the full truth of Jesus’ words, ‘Where two or three meet in my Name, I am among them’ (Matthew 18:20). In the past, I had always given lectures, sermons, addresses, and speeches by myself. Often I had wondered how much of what I had said would be remembered. Now it dawned on me that most likely much of what I said would not be long remembered, but that Bill and I doing it together would not easily be forgotten. I hoped and prayed that Jesus, who had sent us out together and had been with us all during the journey, would have become really present to those who had gathered in the Clarendon Hotel in Crystal City.”(1)
I saw this up close and personal when a Lutheran pastor I worked for (whose name really is Bill) answered the call to lead a diminished and declining flock in a smaller town. No one wanted to lose this talented teacher and preacher. And this was not the best career decision to make; in the metrics of worldly success, this was a demotion. That was the point, though. He told me that we must truly go where God leads us and anything else is simply career advancement. We need be people who proclaim with Isaiah, “Here am I. Send me!”
These counterintuitive stories are reflections of Christ’s example. In the Lenten origin story, Jesus goes without food for 40 days, and so Lent is typically a time of “fasting” from certain foods, although now someone may choose to fast from social media, watching Netflix, etc. If we look deeper into the narrative, though, we are introduced to some of the most grand paradoxes. There is something fascinating taking place behind the fast.
Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Giving Up the Self