Finding New Treasures in Old Books and Surprising Teachers (Henri Nouwen and my Daughter)

IMAG0348Prompted by a friends question, I went to the bookshelf to retrieve one of my favorite books on prayer, Henri Nouwen’s The Way of the Heart. Five years ago, when my daughter was in college, she was assigned the book for a class and I gave her my copy to save some money. When the class was finished, she returned the book. This week, I pulled that copy off the shelf intending to reread it.

What greeted me when I opened the book were my daughter’s notes and interactions with Nouwen’s words.  Instantly the book became a new treasure. Previously, it was a treasure for what it had taught me. Now it was a treasure anew for the snapshot in time of my daughter’s own spiritual questing. What a delight to see her heart wrestling with Nouwen’s Everest-like peaks and yet, not-uncritically. Absorbing here, arguing there, awed at another point, asking questions at still another. It brightened my heart. As I reread and saw M’s own handwriting and notes, my daughter became my teacher—a new and unexpected guide in my journey toward Christ. 

Picture of Some of My Daughter’s Notes

There in the margins, there in the underlining, there in the exclamation points are the record of a girl becoming a woman, becoming a knower of her own mind, a soul-traveler plumbing depths and soaring to heights that have made her into the remarkable young wife and mother that she is today.

It was refreshing to read of her bold innocence in challenging the significant mind of Nouwen on the first statement of the book.

“St. Anthony, the ‘father of monks,’ is the best guide
in our attempt to understand the role of solitude in ministry.”
Introduction, p. 9)

This she has underlined and written the simple note, “What about Christ’s example?”

From the beginning her critical thinking skills are highly attuned. She will not be content to simply take in what someone says, no matter who they are. She demands, as should we all, that every thought be taken captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). Christ is who her gaze is fixed upon and she will not easily be shaken from that vision (Heb. 12:2). In these margins she honestly struggles with her own sin and the challenge that Nouwen lays before the soul. In these ink marks she notes those things that will apply to her present life and future ministry.  In these scratchings, underlinings, asterisks, exclamation points, questions, commentary, affirmations, and doubts she plows the ground of her soul and wrestles with becoming like her Master and Savior.

She is a mighty huntress honing her weapons to lay siege to the fortresses of sin in her own heart that she desires to conquer for the glory of her King and the joy of those she loves (and sometimes struggles to love). How proud and humbled is her father to read these words and how moved I am to emulate this young heart.

May God, in His great mercy and kindness, give her the desires of her heart and may He give our world hundreds of thousands of millions of men and women who will run hard after God and find their greatest satisfaction in the glory and presence of Him.

2 thoughts on “Finding New Treasures in Old Books and Surprising Teachers (Henri Nouwen and my Daughter)

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