My first thought on completion of this book was “Henri Nouwen has done it again.” In typical Nouwen fashion, Reaching Out speaks not only to the head or to the heart, but engages the entire person within this exploration of living spiritually in a secular world. Nouwen is able to put into words some of the deepest, unexplored human emotions that everybody wishes they could express. Not only does he provide theology for spirituality, but also offers a framework in which practical applications can be built. Thus, Reaching Out is not only a good book because of the information Nouwen conveys to the reader, but also because of the space that Nouwen creates in the life of the reader to be transformed. Both theoretically and practically, this book sets a standard of what it means be a spiritual being in today’s world. This book will continue to have a lasting impact on my life just like it has on so many other people’s lives.
There are three sections or movements in the book. The first is the shift from loneliness to solitude. The second is hostility giving way to hospitality. And the last is illusion yielding to prayer. Nouwen weaves the three together so that they are not individual stages one goes through. Rather they work contiguously with one another with each flowing smoothly into the next so that they are all intertwined.
I loved the book – I thought it was fantastic. A friend warned me though that the book can easily create space for a self-help, be-happy Christianity if we aren’t careful. I think it is a warning we must pay heed to, but I do not think it diminishes the message of the book.