The Wounded Healer - Henri J. M. Nouwen

One of our greatest callings is to serve one another in Christ-like love. And one of the most beautiful expressions of that love is to truly "hold" one another in Christ, to walk alongside them, and to affirm the work and calling of Christ in them.

Such is the holy calling of the navigator. We are managing lots and lots of details and moving parts to develop, launch and curate the platform that is Pathways. But at the very heart of the process is the navigator-volunteer relationship. Having our ears attuned to the whispers of the Spirit, our hearts softened by the love of Jesus, and our minds guided by the gift of discernment are all essential to stewarding these holy moments well.

The author Henri Nouwen had just such a strong sense for the personal nature of ministry that he walked away from huge audiences and acclaim and chose to walk alongside people (in his case, those with disabilities) in consistent and personal ways.

The quote below captures just how deeply meaningful and impactful that work can be: showing "personal concern" for one another. This passage from his book The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society reminds us of the power of being fully present to one another.

   The great illusion of leadership is to think that people can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there. Our lives are filled with examples which tell us that leadership asks for understanding and that understanding requires sharing. So long as we define leadership in terms of preventing or establishing precedents, or in terms of being responsible for some kind of abstract “general good,” we have forgotten that no God can save us except a suffering God, and that no man can lead his people except the man who is crushed by its sins. Personal concern means making Mr. Harrison [a 48-year old patient in the hospital who is about to have a life-threatening surgery and is afraid to die] the only one who counts, the one for whom I am willing to forget my many other obligations, my scheduled appointments and long-prepared meetings, not because they are not important but because they lose their urgency in the face of Mr. Harrison’s agony. Personal concern makes it possible to experience that going after the “lost sheep” is really a service to all those who are alone.
   Many will put their trust in someone who went all the way out of concern for just one of them. The remark, “You really cared for us,” is often illustrated by stories demonstrating that forgetting the many for the sake of the one is a sign of true leadership.
   It is not just curiosity which makes people listen to a preacher when he speaks directly to a man and a woman whose marriage he blesses or to the children of the man whom he buries in the ground. They listen in the deep-seated hope that a personal concern might give the preacher words that carry beyond the ears of those whose joy or suffering he shares. Few listen to a sermon which is intended to be applicable to everyone, but most pay careful attention to words born out of concern for only a few.
   All this suggest that when one has the courage to enter where life is experienced as most unique and most private, one touches the soul of the community. The man who has spent many hours trying to understand, feel, and clarify the alienation and confusion of one of his fellow men might well be the best equipped to speak to the needs of the many, because all people are one at the well-spring of pain and joy.
   This is what Carl Rogers pointed out when he wrote: “I have found that the very feeling which has seems to me most private, most personal and hence most incomprehensible by others, has turned out to be an expression for which there is a resonance in many other people. It has led me to believe that what is most personal and unique in each one of us is probably the very element which would, if it were shared or expressed, speak most deeply to others. This has helped me to understand artists and poets who have dared to express the unique in themselves.” It indeed seems that the Christian leader is first of all the artist who can bind together many people by his courage in giving expression to his most personal concern.
Chuck SpongComment