I was at an event a couple of weeks ago celebrating the works and letters of the late Henri Nouwen. Here is one of my favourite stories he told about himself:
[Henri] dreamed that he was travelling in some distant city, and he ran into someone with whom he had gone to high school.
In the bad dream, the person would say,
“Henri, Henri, haven’t seen you in years. What have you done with your life?”
This question always felt like judgment.
He’d done some good things in his life, but there had also been some troubles and struggles. And when the old schoolmate in the dream would say, “What have you done with your life?” he wouldn’t know what to say, how to account for his life.
Then one night he had another dream. He dreamed that he died and went to heaven. He was waiting outside the throne room of God, waiting to stand before almighty God, and he shivered with fear. He just knew that God would be surrounded with fire and smoke and would speak with a deep voice saying,
“Henri, Henri, what have you done with your life?”
But, then, in the dream, when the door to God’s throne room opened, the room was filled with light. From the room he could hear God speaking to him in a gentle voice saying,
“Henri, it’s good to see you. I hear you had a rough trip, but I’d love to see your slides.”