When Henri Nouwen died prematurely last year, pastors everywhere lost a kindred spirit. Many of his 30 books and various articles were addressed to pastors, and he was a frequent speaker at pastoral gatherings.
Can You Drink the Cup?, a classic for pastors, was published shortly before his death. Nouwen, who taught at Notre Dame, Yale, and Harvard, became tired of the competitive atmosphere of academia and sought peace at a home for those with disabilities and spent the last 10 years of his life as a pastor and personal caregiver. Can You Drink the Cup? is a moving challenge based on Jesus' question to His disciples in Matthew 20:20-23. Nouwen says, "I want to tell the story of the cup, not just as my story, but as the story of life" (p. 19). In the autobiographical material I found it easiest to understand what drinking the cup means for my own life.
The disciples recklessly claimed that they could drink the cup. Early in our ministries most of us probably would have done the same, feeling ready for anything that life might offer. But nearing the end of our ministerial career, we might not be so sure, nor would we agree quite so readily to taking everything we may have been dealt through the years. Nouwen, however, helps us come to accept our particular cup. "Drinking the cup," he writes, "is the way to salvation. It is a hard, painful way, a way we want to avoid at all costs. Often it even seems an impossible way. Still, unless we are willing to drink our cup, real freedom will elude us" (p. 91).
Nouwen suggests three disciplines that may help us drink our own cup. I was surprised to discover how silence, speaking, and acting can become disciplines of grace. Read this small book of 111 pages and be blessed as you practice these disciplines for yourself.