March 5, 2013

Ongoing Preparedness

Henri J. M. Nouwen had taken a prayer sabbatical away from his teaching duties at Yale for a few days at the Trappist monastery in Geneseo, NY. While on his retreat, he was approached by a group of college students asking him to lead a retreat for them. He did not want to and asked the abbot of the monastery about this...

The abbot said, "You're going to do it."

"What do you mean? Why should I spend my sabbatical time preparing all those things?"

"Prepare?" he replied. "You've been a Christian for forty years and a priest for twenty, and a few high school students want to have a retreat. Why do you have to prepare? What those boys and girls want is to be part of your life in God for a few days. If you pray half an hour in the morning, sing in our choir for an hour, and do your spiritual reading, you will have so much to say you could give ten retreats."

The question, you see, is not to prepare but to live in a state of ongoing preparedness so that, when someone who is drowning in the world comes into your world, you are ready to reach out and help. It may be at four o'clock, six o'clock, or nine o'clock. One time you call it preaching, the next time teaching, then counseling, or later administration. But let them be part of your life in God-that's ministering.

(an excerpt from "Time Enough to Minister" (Leadership Spring 1982))