Compulsive Ministers, Tend Ye the Inward Fire!

I'm reading Henry Nouwen's book The Way of the Heart. It's ostensibly aimed at "compulsive ministers" who are busy busy busy, and lose their spiritual way in the process. It's reprinted in a small, semi-gloss-covered trade paperback, though, so it's clearly got a much larger audience. People like me, for example, an unprogrammed Friend; though as the volunteer clerk of my Quaker meeting, I can certainly relate to some of the bits about professional ministers.

Really, the larger thrust of the book is about finding time for solitude, silence, and prayer as a way of refreshment. That's useful for anyone, not just those called to the ministry. (Except perhaps the theophobic, as one Facebook friend of mine describes his religious views; they can call it reflection instead of prayer.)

I liked this passage quite well, from page 47 of the recent Ballantine paperback (emphasis added):
What needs to be guarded is the life of the Spirit within us. Especially we who want to witness to the presence of God's Spirit in the world need to tend the fire within with utmost care. It is not so strange that many ministers have become burnt-out cases, people who say many words and share many experiences, but in whom the first of God's Spirit has died and from whom not much more comes forth than their own boring, petty ideas and feelings. Sometimes it seems that our many words are more an expression of our doubt than of our faith. It is as if we are not sure that God's Spirit can touch the hearts of people: we have to help him out, and, with many words, convince others of his power. But it is precisely this wordy unbelief that quenches the fire.

Our first and foremost task is faithfully to care for the inward fire so that when it is really needed it can offer warmth and light to lost travelers.
Lord, help me offer warmth and light to others.


cubbie said...

i really love that quote.

Chris M. said...

cubbie: I'm glad you liked it. Thanks for linking to it on your blog.