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Missed Opportunities

I finally got around to reading Henri Nouwen’s The Wounded Healer this weekend. It’s only 100 pages and consists of four chapters of approximately equal length.

The third chapter should be required reading for Christian bookstore owners. In it, a young theology student visits a man in the hospital. The man is facing some critical surgery but while he’s not wanting to die, life doesn’t hold good prospects for him either.

The theology student provides a transcript of the exchange to his supervisor and all at once there is the awareness of an opportunity lost by not truly hearing what the man was saying.

We are placed in a unique setting where we can bring life to people who need it, but we

  • can get lost in the busy-ness of doing store things;
  • make assumptions based on what we think about how the person presents themself;
  • can be listening to the person’s words but not hearing their heart;
  • are often afraid of committing ourselves to being there for the person in the future.

If you have this book on your shelves, read the third chapter in full; the exchange with the hospital patient and the analysis which follows.

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