One of the many reasons I find myself drawn to the people, spirituality and practice of tenderness at L'Arche has just become clear to me: at the core of this community is the radical acceptance of one another in love. Jean Vanier has observed that meeting another without trying to change him/her is essential for living in the heart of God. As an intellectual, I often think of this in relationship to others. But what is beginning to dawn on me is that I, too ache to be cherished just for who I am. Not what I can do for another, not as a commodity to be used and discarded, and not as a resource. Simply for who I am. In other context Vanier notes that each of us long to belong.
There are many layers to this longing in me including age, vitality, commitment to Christ, retirement, white male privilege and so much more. Let me simply say that while all of my layers are real and have value, what I have rarely owned is my profound inner loneliness. I know there are times when I have been useful. I know that I have often been helpful and necessary, too. But there have not nearly been as many times when I was valued just for being. As I enter into the retirement groove, it does my heart good to know that L'Arche is ready to welcome me as me. Of course, there are things I can bring to the community - music, prayer, presence, the wisdom of experience and the ability to write with clarity - but mostly we recognize a mutual attraction that cuts deeper than words. How does St. Paul put it, "The Spirit groans for us with sighs too deep for human words."
An example of this took place recently when I freaked out about my limited
ability to converse in French. I was reassured that there would often be some bilingual folk around to assist me so I need not worry. "Or" wrote the director, "you could just be silent." Isn't that perfect? For a preacher? Shut up and just BE there? Don't try to think it through, control it or beat yourself up for what you don't have. There will ALWAYS be things beyond my control. Why not just be present and be still? Again I think of the invitation to "be still and know that I am God."
As I read, pray and wait my way into this next phase of faith, I am discerning that I clearly have a place in this small L'Arche community. I don't know why. And I don't really have to know why. I just know it is so.
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