Henri Nouwen, a priest and teacher who moved in the exalted circles of Harvard and Yale and Notre Dame, came to believe that those settings did not — for him — call forth the person God intended him to be. So this famous writer spent the last decade of his life caring for physically and mentally challenged residents of a small community called L’Arche.

There Henri made friends with a resident named Trevor, who had many mental and emotional challenges. One time when Trevor was sent to a hospital for evaluation, Henri called to arrange a visit. When the authorities found out the famous Henri Nouwen was coming, they asked him if he would meet with some doctors, chaplains, and clergy. He agreed, and when he arrived, there was a lovely luncheon laid out in the Golden Room — but Trevor was not there.

“Where is Trevor?” Henri asked.

“He cannot come to the lunch,” they told him. “Patients and staff are not allowed to have lunch together, and no patient has ever had lunch in the Golden Room.”

“But the whole purpose of my visit was to have lunch with Trevor,”

Henri said. “If Trevor is not allowed to attend the lunch, then I will not attend either.”

A way was found for Trevor to attend the lunch.

The Golden Room was filled with people who were quite excited that the great Henri Nouwen was in their midst. Some angled to be close to him. They thought of how wonderful it would be to tell their friends, “As I was saying to Henri Nouwen the other day.…” Some pretended to have read books they had not read and know ideas they did not know. Others were upset that the rule separating patients and staff had been broken.

Trevor, oblivious to all this, sat next to Henri, who was engaged in conversation with the person on his other side. Consequently, Henri did not notice that Trevor had risen to his feet.

“A toast,” Trevor said. “I will now offer a toast.”

The room grew quiet. What in the world is this guy going to do? everyone wondered.

Then Trevor began to sing.

If you’re happy and you know it, raise your glass.

If you’re happy and you know it, raise your glass.

If you’re happy and you know it, if you’re happy and you know it,

If you’re happy and you know it, raise your glass.

At first people were not sure how to respond, but Trevor was beaming. His face and voice told everyone how glad and proud he was to be there with his friend Henri. Somehow Trevor, in his brokenness and joy, gave a gift no one else in the room could give. People began to sing — softly at first, but then with more enthusiasm — until doctors and priests and PhDs were almost shouting, “If you’re happy and you know it.…”

All under the direction of Trevor.

No one was preening anymore. No one worried about the rules. No one tried to separate the PhDs from the ADDs. For a few moments, a room full of people moved toward the best version of themselves because a wounded healer named Henri Nouwen lived among the challenged, and because a challenged man named Trevor was living out the best version of himself.

We do not just drift into becoming the best version of ourselves. It can be missed by a genius, and it can be found by Trevor. If I want to become that person I want to be, I will have to come to grips with the counterfeits who elbow in to take his place — the rivals who can keep me from becoming the me I am meant to be.

John Ortberg, The Me I Want to Be: Becoming God’s Best Version of You (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009).

We have just completed a Bible study based on John Ortberg’s book, The Me I Want to Be. It consists of 7 lessons with ready-to-use questions suitable for groups. It can be purchased on Amazon and is also available as part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service.