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The Holy Inefficiency Of Henri Nouwen

A better symbol of the Incarnation, I can hardly imagine.

-by PHILIP YANCEY

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Once when I was dining with a group of writers, the conversation turned to letters we get from readers. Richard Foster and Eugene Peterson mentioned an intense young man who had been seeking spiritual direction from both of them. They responded as best they could, answering questions by mail and recommending books on spirituality. Foster had just learned that the same inquirer had also contacted Henri Nouwen. “You won’t believe what Nouwen did,” he said. “He invited this stranger to live with him for a month so he could mentor him in person.”

Most writers jealously protect their schedules and privacy. Nouwen, who died of a heart attack this past September, broke down such barriers of professionalism. His entire life, in fact, displayed a “holy inefficiency.”

Trained in Holland as a psychologist and a theologian, Nouwen spent his early years achieving. He taught at Notre Dame, Yale, and Harvard, averaged more than a book a year, and traveled widely as a conference speaker. He had a r

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