Thursday, October 13, 2005

Henri Nouwen

Eric and I have a print of Rembrant's "The Prodigal Son" above our fireplace.

It was given to me by my parents after I read The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen.

Nouwen was given an opportunity to view the real painting located at he Hermitage in Russia. He spent over six hours total simply sitting in front of the painting, observing the light changes and taking notes. Out of that encounter came his book.

In it he writes:

I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found. Why do I keep ignoring the place of true love and persist in looking for it elsewhere? . . . I often carry [my gifts] off to a "distant country" and put them in the service of an exploiting world that does not know their true value. It's almost as if I want to prove to myself and to the world that I do not need God's love, that I can make a life on my own. . . . Beneath it all is the great rebellion, the radical "no" to the Father's love. The prodigal son's "no" reflects Adam's original rebellion: his rejection of the God in whose love we are created and by whose love we are sustained. It is the rebellion that places me outside the garden, out of reach of the tree of life. It is the rebellion that makes me dissipate myself in a "distant country."

*sigh* Henri Nouwen died in 1996. He was a Harvard professor, but he spent his last years caring for mentally disabled individuals in a L'arc community. Nouwen strikes a chord with so many of us. Tired of striving, tired of the materialism that so characterizes our culture, tired of being "servant leaders" (its become a cliche' in my book), and now looking for another way to live.

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