Nouwen and Independence

[Listening to: Onda – Los Lonely Boys – Los Lonely Boys (8:55)]

“Jesus, the Blessed One is poor. The poverty of Jesus is much more than economic or social poverty. Jesus is poor because he freely chose powerlessness over power, vulnerability over defensiveness, dependency over self-sufficiency…”

Henri Nouwen from Bread for the Journey

How often I lift up these words of Nouwen, and the words of Christ calling us to life is a world where up is down and out is in. “My calling is based in a belief that God want’s ministers who are willing to be vulnerable…” I tell others.


It’s a great ideal, but how often do I really allow myself to be vulnerable. Why? Not out of toughness. No, the curse, my thorn in the flesh is the need for independence. When I’m honest with myself I recognize that I fear dependence on anyone and anything. And so I structure my life in ways that facilitates this need, this desire, this longing for freedom.

That all works well until the car breaks down, and suddenly I’m no longer free. I find myself getting surly (…surly to be bed and surly to rise… ). I don’t like not being my own person, subject to the needs and desires of another. I don’t mind helping others, doing what they need, giving of my time — as long as it’s on my own terms.

I write this as a confession of sorts. I keep on my wall Martin Luther King Jr’s quote on the interdependence of us all as a reminder of my place in the world. Intellectually I agree and hold this close to my heart. But far too often it is much more of an ideal for me than a reality. While some folks need to ask God for humility, my equally great need is for dependence. When I become able to be dependent on others, then I will begin to experience God’s love and provision in a new way.

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