Thursday, 22 January 2009

Nouwen on Success

From Nouwen's, The Wounded Healer via Readings for Reflection in A Guide to Prayer:
…promises, not concrete successes, are the basis of Christian leadership. Many ministers, priests and Christian laymen have become disillusioned, bitter and even hostile when years of hard work bear no fruit, when little change is accomplished. Building a vocation on the expectations of concrete results, however conceived, is like building a house on sand instead of on solid rock, and even takes away the ability to accept successes as free gifts. 
Another hard thing for the likes of me, serving in a declining denomination with the annual meeting looming, to embrace.

And along with this today, 1 Corinthians 1.26-31, on not many of us called being wise or powerful but rather foolish and weak by worldly standards. Nouwen makes it sound like concrete results and success are the exception rather than the rule. When they do happen, there is an implicit challenge to discern very carefully whether it is a free gift or something we've wrought by our own strength.