Here and Now: Henri Nouwen

I cannot write about here-and-now living without mentioning Henri Nouwen.  Although he did not introduce me to the idea, he has added significant content and perspective to it.

Nearly all his books speak about living in the present moment.  But he wrote one book devoted entirely to the theme, ‘Here and Now.’ [1]  He called this kind of life “living in the Spirit,” and he wrote about it in a full orbed way.  With customary honesty, Nouwen included experiences of sorrow and suffering among the formative aspects of the spiritual life.  And one of the things I appreciate most about his view is the way he makes simplicity the usual means for living well in the present moment

Through his letters, we can see Nouwen’s commitment to here-and-now living going back much earlier than this book.  In 1978 he wrote to a former student and his wife, who were trying to discern whether or not to move away from one form of ministry and go into another one.  While encouraging them to remain open to a new call from God, Henri offered these words of counsel.

“My first response to your letter is that right now [God] calls you to be just where you are.” [2]  He went on to say that he believed the best way to hear a new call from God was by being faithful to the current call.  For Nouwen, the present moment is the good soil into which new seeds can be sown, in turn germinating and producing a fresh harvest that nourishes us in the future.

Nouwen has enabled me to realize that the best way to be receptive to the future is to be attentive in the present.  Spiritual seeing and hearing is cultivated here-and-now.  If we can see and hear what’s in front of us, we envision and discern what’s ahead of us.

[1] Henri J.M. Nouwen, ‘Here and Now’ (Crossroad, 1994).

[2] Henri J.M. Nouwen, ‘Love, Henri: Letters on the Spiritual Life’ (Convergent, 2016), 28.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 31 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church
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