Do you know Henri Nouwen? If not, you should check him out…he’s easily found on the internet, along with the many books he has written. A thumbnail description includes him being a fairly contemporary Roman Catholic cleric who resigned from a prestigious teaching position at one of the Ivy League universities in order to work with severely disabled adults. I would recommend him to anyone seeking a thoughtful, mature spiritual voice able to speak across denominational lines.
Something from his writings reminded me of to acknowledge many who have had a strong influence on my life. As I near the end of my sixth decade, I realize that it took a lot of people to help me become me. These are people GOD placed in my life and pathway at just the right time, starting with my parents. There are so many things I would say to them if I could, things I didn’t have the insight or appreciation to say when they were alive. I realize that I was loved by my parents. I know that they sacrificed for me in big and little ways, some of which I know of and I’m sure many that I don’t. I know that they suffered pain through the loss of a daughter, my sister, and even strains in their own relationship. Still, they pushed me to be me.
I recall Mr. P., my eighth grade homeroom and social studies teacher, who told me he would intellectually emancipate me, and who did not make it easy; but he was always interesting. I remember Mr. R, my high school US History I and II teacher who told me I was slipping when I only got a 97 on one of his exams (I still have the blue book with his comment written on the cover). And then there’s my college roommate with whom I am still bosom buddies after nearly 50 years (I just spoke with him a three days ago). It is doubtful in life that two people so dissimilar in background and personality would become as close as brothers, with both of us winding up in pastoral ministry. I don’t gamble, but Vegas odds would have been something like 10 million to one on our vocational outcome (bet a dollar in 1973 that those two would both become pastors and win $10 million years later). To say that he pushed me to experience some things outside of my comfort zone is an understatement. All I can say is, GOD is merciful and gracious, and so full of love.
I cannot forget Mrs. T., a college counselor, who called me on it when I wasn’t being me, and later, a boss who challenged me to trust my instincts and step up my game. It was his hard nudging that enabled me to do a lot of things years later that probably would have never happened had it not been for his mentorship. And of course, I dare not forget all of the pastors, pastoral colleagues, and the people of GOD from whom I have learned so much, including one who had the ability to get into my head like few others (my college roomie and my wife being the other two). Finally, to her with whom I have shared a life, thanks for never settling for other than my best.
Being pushed isn’t always comfortable, and all of us have those people in our lives who push us for the wrong reasons and in ways that are not helpful. But that doesn’t negate the powerful, positive impact of and value gained from those who saw something in us that a little (or a lot of) pushing could polish. That’s true even of people like Henri Nouwen who gave me the idea.
© Byron L. Hannon, 2019. All rights reserved to text content.