Back in the early 1970s when I was beginning my career with Young Life, a mentor introduced me to the discipline of spiritual reading. In addition to the Bible, he urged me to cultivate the habit of reading biographies and autobiographies of followers of Jesus. Clueless about the soul shaping power that was about to be unleashed, I followed his promptings. With hindsight’s 20/20 vision, today I can see how this practice has shaped my soul.
Recently I re-read one of the most cherished books in my library—A Traveler Toward the Dawn: The Spiritual Journal of John Eagan, S. J. It’s the story of a man who spent some 30 years as a high school teacher and priest, oftentimes wondering whether he was making a difference in the lives of those he taught and served. It’s also the gripping account of an extraordinary God seizing and transforming the heart of an ordinary man.
Beginning with the book’s introduction my eyes were opened to how easily and how often I sabotage my life with self-contempt. As the book’s editor noted, “the point of John’s journal is that we ourselves are the greatest obstacle to our own nobility of soul—which is what sanctity means. We judge ourselves unworthy servants, and as a result, our judgment becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We deem ourselves too inconsiderable to be used even by a God capable of miracles with no more than mud and spit. This false humility shackles an otherwise omnipotent God.”
Observing John Eagan’s approach to living was certainly compelling; however witnessing how well he did his dying was overwhelming. Just one month after he was told he had terminal cancer John Eagan died. He was sixty-one years old. Five days after his doctor told him of the cancer that was ravaging his body, he wrote a letter to his closest friends. In it he spoke of his relationship with God and the intense attraction and growing desire to be with him. He portrayed it as being like “…a deep pull inside, an undertow.” Reminding them of how much he loved taking journeys, he explained that now he was, “…at the last and most important journey of my life.” He ended the letter with a simple request: “Please pray that I may make this last journey in peace, in strong hope of the resurrection, and in growing desire to see face-to-Face this incomprehensible God to whom we give our lives.”
Yearning for intimacy with God in the midst of my busy life and active ministry, A Traveler Toward the Dawn has served as a powerful example.
Do you, too, judge yourself an unworthy servant? What might God be speaking to you about that, even now?
Is there a book, like A Traveler Toward The Dawn, that has been an encouragement to you on the journey?
 John Eagan, A Traveler Toward the Dawn: The Spiritual Journal of John Eagan, S. J., ed. William J. O’Malley (Chicago: Loyola Press, 1990).
Fil Anderson is Executive Director of Journey Resources, based in Greensboro, North Carolina. He’s a frequent speaker at conferences, offers individual spiritual direction, and directs retreats and workshops around the country. He's the author of two books, Running on Empty: Contemplative Spirituality for Overachievers and Breaking the Rules: Trading Performance for Intimacy with God.