Leading Mr Harrison to Tomorrow

wounded healerHenri Nouwen’s book, The Wounded Healer, is such a gem. The following are my understanding of “leading Mr. Harrison to tomorrow” in the book:

First, leading Mr. Harrison to tomorrow is effective intervention for an elderly one who had lost the will to live.

Second, leading Mr. Harrison to tomorrow is demonstrating love as a fellow human being.

Third, leading Mr. Harrison to tomorrow is exercising spiritual leadership by becoming the reason for others to thrive on.

(a)    Effective intervention for an elderly one who had lost the will to live.

To use Henri Nouwen’s wording, Mr. Harrison was in an “impersonal” milieu, afraid to die, yet also afraid to live. Facing a human being as such who has given up on living, the counselor (minister) should not think that basic counseling skills such as paraphrasing, showing empathy, agreeing with what the counselee said, or prompt the counselee for more words would be sufficient to help. In fact, instead of leading the counselee, the counselor (minister) could have mis-led the counselee to a point of despair, a point of no return. Effective intervention is one that leads the counselees out of the pit of confusion, isolation and self-banishment. Effective intervention is one that leads the counselees to cross over the impersonal milieu to a new scenario where one is willing to greet tomorrow with courage and anticipation.

(b)   Demonstrating love as a fellow human being.

Without love, knowledge puffs up. Without love, one would not be able to ward away one’s pride, anger or judgment against what the counselee would have said or how the person might have behaved. Modeling after the love of God for mankind, the counselor (minister) chose to be there for a suffering human being. It’s a love that is akin to the esprit de corps and camaraderie. More than that, that is a love that empowers the counselor (minister) to willingly get out of his/her comfort zone and enter the unknown and fearful territory of a grieving and messed-up world, within which the counselee is trapped.

(c)    Exercising spiritual leadership by becoming the reason for others to thrive on.

I like Henri Nouwen’s unorthodox way of defining a leader. He said, “a Christian leader is not a leader because he announces a new idea and tries to convince others of its worth; he is a leader because he faces the world with eyes full of expectation, with the expertise to take away the veil that covers its hidden potential. Christian leadership is called ministry precisely to express that in the service of others new life can be brought about.” If I were to define leadership, I would word it as such, “a Christian leader is one who is able to influence the spiritually handicapped so as to see HOPE to go on.” By promising “I am waiting for you, (Mr Harrison);” a Christian counselor (minister) avail himself/herself to become the reason for the counselee to thrive on. Ultimately, this reason finds its utmost authentication in its source and prototype – the leadership of God. With God’s gentle leading hand, a Christian counselor may save others by snatching them from the fire (Jude 1:23a). With the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, the bitter and “hostile” counselee would be able to see light at the end of the tunnel. Because God is waiting, a Christian leader would offer to wait on, and to wait for the other: “I am waiting for you, (Mr Harrison).”

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About Florence Kuek

Was lecturer and researcher at a state university. Currently serving as Head of Student Services at a college. Has a pastoral heart for people. PhD candidate, Chinese Studies at University of Malaya.
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