Adam: God’s Beloved by Henri J.M. Nouwen
Reflections by David Nelson
The walk this morning felt good even with a sore muscle in the thigh. The time spent at Power and Light District in downtown Kansas City during the Big XII basketball tournament was fun. It is a full weekend. Sunday morning we will have our final conversation about the book Adam in our adult class. The book has been one of my companions during this Lent season. It tells the story of a profoundly handicapped young man in a special community where Henri lived as one of the caregivers. Adam could not speak or even move without assistance. He is totally dependent on others since his birth. By any standard he was a burden to his family, and society. Yet in the care giving and community building many lives were transformed.
I resisted the comparison with Jesus that is a theme throughout the book. Jesus was whole, he was brilliant, and he was fully in charge of his life. Jesus taught others with his stories and his prophetic witness. He healed the sick and raised the dead. He fed the hungry and empowered others to be disciples. Adam could do none of these things, and yet for Henri, others in the L’Arche Daybreak Community, and for many readers of this short book, Adam was also a witness to God’s unconditional and indescribable grace. I finished the book with a profound sense of appreciation as well.
Why have I resisted? Why did some of the narrative seemed forced at times? I don’t know the reasons, but I do know I will ponder these questions again. What I do realize is that the story became personal for me as well. I too had the privilege of companioning residence of Bethphage Mission as a child with my father and I took confirmation classes for a few days retreat several years while a pastor. It is hard to put words to the feelings of hanging out with these “special” people. I visited people in the twilight hours of their lives when they could only “be” and not “do”. In most cases I felt touched in ways that words cannot describe.
My thoughts also brought the short life of our daughter Molly into focus. Although healthy, happy, and very brilliant (in my eyes) she too did not write any books, preach any sermons, contribute any hours in volunteer service or perform wondrous feats of great athletic ability. But she blessed my life beyond measure. She remains a part of my memory that defines my existence. Her gifts were her presence and the incredible relationship that cannot be severed even by death. Death ends a life. It does not end a relationship.
I am grateful for stories that I can’t explain. I am appreciative of a group of adults that share an hour on Sunday morning to share books, conversations, and theological reflections. Through the stories shared I continue to experience a profound sense of awe and inspiration at the human journey. Grace is amazing and it is birthed in so many incredible diverse places.