Do you recognize the name of Henri Nouwen? He was a Catholic priest who authored more than 40 books. He taught at Harvard Divinity, Yale Divinity School, and the University of Notre Dame. As a gifted speaker, he accepted invitations to speak all over the world. And then something happened. He had his Henri Nouwen moment.
I’m not comparing myself to Nouwen. But for 35 years I’ve had a public ministry. I’ve pastored five churches in three states. As an interim pastor I’ve led seven churches through difficult transitions. In my ministry I preached 2,188 times. And now something has happened. This is my Henri Nouwen moment.
There came a point in Nouwen’s career when he made a dramatic shift. He went to work with individuals who had intellectual and developmental disabilities. He quit his public ministry and became a part of the L’Arche Daybreak Community in Ontario, Canada. He spent the last ten years of his life ministering to one individual with profound developmental disabilities.
In the morning my Nouwen moment begins.
Two weeks ago, I quietly observed an unhappy one year anniversary. It’s now been 55 weeks since preaching my last sermon. Part of that is due to COVID. Another part of the equation was getting burned out from my interim work. But part of it is mysterious. I don’t know why I’ve not been asked to supply preach. The preaching ministry is what I’ve been called to do. It’s my life. It’s my identity. But that’s changing. I’m done.
In the morning begins my Nouwen moment. I’ve accepted a full time position with the school system. Like Nouwen, I’ll be working with individuals who have disabilities. And like Nouwen, my time will be spent working behind the scenes with primarily one individual. Do you see why I’ve been saying this is my Nouwen moment.
In case you are wondering, I’ve loved preaching. I’ve always been prepared. It never made me nervous. It was a thrill to get up front and share what God had given me. But in these last 55 weeks, I’ve realized that maybe I’ve loved it too much. My identity is being reshaped. And, I’m thinking this is a good thing.
So goodbye preaching. Goodbye pastoral ministry. Goodbye old life. Tomorrow I begin a new journey which will take me to unfamiliar places. But I’m ready. I’m embracing this new Nouwen moment.
And I have a feeling, that in the morning as I leave the house, God will have a big grin on His face.