10. From a Heart of Stone to a Heart of Flesh: Conversion and Community (1995), p. 110
We’ve reached the final week of our Advent book discussion of Community. I want to begin by thanking everyone who has joined our community for this spirit-filled and fruitful journey—those posting comments and those reading and reflecting silently.
When preparing the reading schedule earlier this fall, I decided that in these hectic final days before Christmas we should limit ourselves to just one chapter. Little did I know then that Chapter 10, written nine months before his death, was a distillation of Henri’s wisdom and insights about living a spiritual life. For me, this chapter is one of Henri Nouwen’s most meaningful writings.
In these few pages, Henri calls us to daily conversion and then he shows us the way. He integrates his deep understanding of our human condition that was honed during his years of study and teaching with his life in an “intentional community” (p. 130) at L’Arche Daybreak. Henri’s time at L’Arche included his emotional breakdown in December 1987 followed by seven months of emotional and spiritual counseling, a near fatal accident where he was hit by a car while walking on an icy street, and almost a decade as a beloved pastor where he found the home he had been seeking. It is from this lived experience that Henri derives his profound spiritual insights and the practical roadmap to the spiritual life described in this chapter. You are encouraged to re-read pages xi to xii in the Foreword for Robert Ellsberg’s excellent summary.
This chapter contains so much to ponder that I am reluctant to identify specific text excerpts that were meaningful to me. You might consider the following questions.
a) In what ways do Henri’s reflections on the need for conversion of our hardened heart, developing a heart of flesh through life in community, and the disciplines of community provide insights into your life?
b) What specific steps do you feel called to take in the new year to address the constant need of conversion from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh described by Henri?
As always, we look forward to hearing from many of you. You may respond to the reflection questions or share whatever is on your heart—from the reading this week or throughout our Advent journey. Once again, thank you for joining for our Advent book discussion. It has been a great blessing to share this journey with you.
The Henri Nouwen Society and I want to wish you and yours a blessed and joyous Christmas. May the peace of the Lord be with you this Christmas and throughout the year.