Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith
  • Alternative view 1 of Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith
  • Alternative view 2 of Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith

Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith

4.2 4
by Henri J. M. Nouwen, Rebecca Laird, Michael J. Christensen, Michael J. Christensen, Rebecca J. Laird

View All Available Formats & Editions

Spiritual guidance from beloved author Henri Nouwen on how to live a deep spiritual life in communion with others.


Spiritual guidance from beloved author Henri Nouwen on how to live a deep spiritual life in communion with others.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
It's a little jarring to see a new book from an author who's been dead for 10 years. Yet these clearly are the words and teachings of Nouwen, prepared by two people close to him when he was alive (Rebecca Laird and Michael Christensen). Much like Nouwen's Making All Things New, this is by a spiritual master for everyday people longing to be closer to God. It is not about how to become a spiritual friend, mentor or director, but focuses on ways individuals can find their spiritual direction in the broadest possible sense. Although there is an essay on what a spiritual director does, there is much more about how to pray, practice solitude and overcome the fears that keep us from knowing ourselves as God's beloved. Many Christians who struggle with the image of a punishing God will appreciate the section on becoming attentive to and working with our image of God. Following each chapter there is a recommended spiritual practice and questions to ponder. This is a brilliant addition to Nouwen's canon of work as a writer and will enrich both longtime Nouwen fans and newcomers to his wisdom. (June) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Nouwen, beloved author of The Wounded Healer and many other books, died in 1996 and in fact wrote only one brief article on the subject of spiritual direction. This brief posthumous anthology represents a careful combing through his published and unpublished writings that, considered together, make a kind of course in spiritual direction. Also included are exercises adapted from Nouwen as well as hints on finding a spiritual director and further reading by the editors. Nouwen is enduringly popular, and this adaptation of his insights should give new application to his writing for both individuals and communities. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Bill Moyers
“Read this book and you will understand why I chose Henri Nouwen as a companion on my own spiritual journey.”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.73(d)

Read an Excerpt

Spiritual Direction

Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith
By Henri J. M. Nouwen


Copyright © 2007 Henri J. M. Nouwen
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780060872748

Chapter One

Who Will Answer My Questions?

A buddhist monk once came to visit me and told me the following story:

The Zen Master

Many years ago, there was a young man who searched for truth, happiness, joy, and the right way of living. After many years of traveling, many diverse experiences, and many hardships, he realized that he had not found any answers for his questions and that he needed a teacher. One day he heard about a famous Zen Master. Immediately he went to him, threw himself at his feet, and said: "Please, Master, be my teacher."

The Master listened to him, accepted his request, and made him his personal secretary. Wherever the Master went, his new secretary went with him. But although the Master spoke to many people who came to him for advice and counsel, he never spoke to his secretary. After three years, the young man was so disappointed and frustrated that he no longer could restrain himself. One day he burst out in anger, saying to his Master: "I have sacrificed everything, given away all I had, and followed you. Why haven't you taught me?" The Master looked at him with greatcompassion and said: "Don't you understand that I have been teaching you during every moment you have been with me? When you bring me a cup of tea, don't I drink it? When you bow to me, don't I bow to you? When you clean my desk, don't I say: 'Thank you very much'?"

The young man could not grasp what his Master was saying and became very confused. Then suddenly the Master shouted at the top of his voice: "When you see, you see it direct." At that moment the young man received enlightenment.7

The distance between a Zen Master in the Far East teaching an eager young student and a Chris-tian spiritual director in the West responding to a spiritual seeker might seem a wide bridge to cross. Still, this story powerfully points to the wisdom we need to live the questions of our lives, both alone and in community, as we seek our mission in the world.

The young man in the Zen story has unspoken but urgent questions: What is truth? How may I find joy and happiness? What is the right way of living? To his, we might add our own life questions: What am I to do with my life? Whom shall I marry? Where shall I live? What gifts do I have to share? What do I do with my loneliness? Why am I so needy for affection, approval, or power? How can I overcome my fears, my shame, my addictions, and my sense of inadequacy or of failure?

Once, quite a few years ago, I had the opportunity of meeting Mother Teresa of Calcutta. I was struggling with many things at the time and decided to use the occasion to ask Mother Teresa's advice. As soon as we sat down I started explaining all my problems and difficulties -- trying to convince her of how complicated it all was! When, after ten minutes of elaborate explanation, I finally became quiet, Mother Teresa looked at me and quietly said: "Well, when you spend one hour a day adoring your Lord and never do anything which you know is wrong . . . you will be fine!"

When she said this, I realized, suddenly, that she had punctured my big balloon of complex self-complaints and pointed me far beyond myself to the place of real healing. Reflecting on this brief but decisive encounter, I realized that I had raised a question from below and that she had given an answer from above. At first, her answer didn't seem to fit my question, but then I began to see that her answer came from God's place and not from the place of my complaints. Most of the time we respond to questions from below with answers from below. The result is often more confusion. Mother Teresa's answer was like a flash of lightning in my darkness.

Seeking spiritual direction, for me, means to ask the big questions, the fundamental questions, the universal ones in the context of a supportive community. Out of asking the right questions and living the questions will come right actions that present themselves in compelling ways. To live the questions and act rightly, guided by God's spirit, requires both discipline and courage: discipline to "ask, seek, knock" until the door opens (see Matthew 7:7–8).

What questions are people asking?

You may not be able to formulate an ultimate life question right now. Sometimes we feel so much fear and anxiety, and identify so closely with our suffering, that our pain masks the questions. Once pain or confusion is framed or articulated by a question, it must be lived rather than answered. The first task of seeking guidance then is to touch your own struggles, doubts, and insecurities -- in short, to affirm your life as a quest.8 Your life, my life, is given graciously by God. Our lives are not problems to be solved but journeys to be taken with Jesus as our friend and finest guide.

This is where the ministry of spiritual direction -- along with the other interpersonal disciplines of the spiritual life: preaching, teaching, counseling, and pastoral care -- can help. These interpersonal resources are intended to help people find a friendly distance from their own lives so that what they are experiencing can be brought into the light in the form of a question to be lived.

A person of faith from long ago who asked and lived the difficult questions of existence was Job. A careful reading of the biblical Book of Job shows that Job's questions are "answered" by his friends, but not by God. As he lives his own questions in the face of suffering, all Job can say is, "The Lord gives and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised" (Job 1:21).


Excerpted from Spiritual Direction by Henri J. M. Nouwen Copyright © 2007 by Henri J. M. Nouwen. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are saying about this

Bill Moyers
“Read this book and you will understand why I chose Henri Nouwen as a companion on my own spiritual journey.”

Meet the Author

Henri J.M. Nouwen was a world-renowned spiritual guide, counselor, and bestselling author of over forty books that many today consider spiritual classics. He taught at the universities of Harvard, Yale, and Notre Dame before becoming the senior pastor of L’Arche Daybreak in Toronto, Canada, a community where men and women with intellectual disabilities and their assistants create a home for one another.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Spiritual Direction 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
maryob More than 1 year ago
This is an easy read but also profound, as is the case with most of this author's books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
klee More than 1 year ago
This book is not really written by Nouwen but combines much of his actual written work into one book that seeks to guide the reader in a practical method of discernment. Through parables, prayer and meditative exercises, and journal prompts, the book does provide a clear process for quieting our own voices and creating time and space for God to speak to us. It's a simple read and I recommend it to be used among prayer partners or small groups.