A few weeks ago we had our last day of our fall assistant’s orientation at L’Arche and we had a graduation of sorts. As part of this graduation we were asked to attend a half day retreat where we talked about the Gospels and who people say that Christ is. After this, we were asked to reflect on our own lives and our sense of knowing others and being known by them. Especially as we live life in community there are certain images that co-workers and core members (people with disabilities) begin to have of us and there are ways that over the past 6 months they have invited us to know them in deeper ways just like we have also invited them to get to know us far beneath just surface talk. Trust me, when you live with people there’s not much hiding left to do! The final part of our graduation was having to choose an image from nature and a song that describes where we are in our lives at this moment.
I’ve displayed the picture that I chose here…. To me it shows a sense of adventure seeking and sheer delight in exploring the wonders that nature holds. Personally, I have often found nature to be a place of solace and very healing. Whether I need shelter from the storm or I want to enjoy a picnic on the sunniest day of the year (both metaphorically speaking) nature has it all. I would venture to say that the times I have had my deepest talks with God and where He has revealed to me the deepest yearnings of my heart have often been in nature. My favourite place to read Scriptures would be on the branch of a tree which I have just climbed and often in the summer and into the late fall you can find me in a local park or wooded area doing just that. Those are my “date times” with God – the times which others dare not interrupt for it is an intimate expression of my love for Him.
As for the song… well, I chose the cover of Switchfoot’s album “Hurricane”, but in actuality on the sheet of paper I wrote the following three lyrics:
“Hello Hurricane, not enough to silence my love!”
“Do you love me enough to let me go?”
“If it doesn’t break your heart it isn’t love”
To be honest, I have this tendency as I’m sure many others do as well to keep listening to a song repetitively. For the last few weeks, I have been using Switchfoot’s Hurricane album to help get me through the mundane L’Arche tasks of cooking, cleaning, and washing dishes. Time seems to go much quicker when I have some musical entertainment to accompany my work. Generally speaking I just put my earphones in without giving much thought to the words. I just like the background noise, however, when asked to reflect at our L’Arche retreat I was immediately struck with some of the intensity of the lyrics to the songs I’ve been playing recently. I realize how they have subconsciously echoed some of my deepest yearnings as a peace studies major for global unity and eradicating “isms”. I also realize that the Hurricane Album is a great way to sum up my time at L’Arche so far. In this blog, I’d like to unpack the three lines I mentioned above and share what makes them significant to me:
“Hello Hurricane, not enough to silence my love!” – Sometimes in life I face difficulties just as all of us do. When “hurricanes” come up in my life whether through conflict with someone in my community, my own disappointment in myself, or when wars are taking place in the world, I am reminded that with God’s help I can stand against the waves that crash in my face. God hasn’t promised a life devoid of struggles and schism, but He has promised that if we build our houses on the Rock and bind our hearts to Him then even when the rain comes crashing down on us, our house will still stand firm, strong, and immoveable. That’s why you see people who are very mature in their faith having such an unshakable, unwavering reality. The most difficult things have hit home for them, but they kept being in tune with the Word of Christ. That’s because they have learned that as long as they don’t move away from Christ, He can NEVER move away from them! So this lyric reminds me that no storm (no hurricane) can silence my love for the Father and for those I serve because of the grace He has imparted to me. I can never stop telling all that He has done for me and how He has rescued me time and time again.
“Do you love me enough to let me go?” – When I first heard this lyric I thought primarily about a loving human relationship (such as between a boyfriend and girlfriend), however in my context at L’Arche I have discovered it to be far more than that. There is sometimes a struggle between a parent and a budding adolescent between how much to continue to hold on to them and how much to relinquish control of their lives in order that they can gain independence and learn from their own mistakes so that one day they can become responsible adults. In the same way, L’Arche has taught me that people with developmental disabilities should be given the freedom to do as much for themselves as they possibly can. When people with disabilities are given the right to make informed decisions their independence and self-confidence soars. So if we truly love the ones we work among we will love them enough to let them go and discover life and their deepest passions for themselves.
“If it doesn’t break your heart it isn’t love” – As a peace studies scholar, I have often seen the devastating effects that war and violence has had on our environment and on our lives. Violence can be everything ranging from genocide, to abuse, to subtle “isms” spoken just below the surface. If I choose to passively ignore what is happening in global affairs or only to get semi-involved then I am not truly showing love for the people that God has placed on this earth or for the creation which He has entrusted to us. Even if I write campaign letters, travel cross-country to deliver speeches, or form a committee or coalition, if those actions are not accompanied by heartbreak they are relatively useless in God’s eyes. The Apostle Paul himself wrote once, “If I can speak the tongues of men or of angels but I have no love then my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging symbol.” In other words, if we want our actions to be harmonious before God and to sound like a sweet melody rather than some dissonant noise, we need to be resonant with his desire for us to love. Sometimes people ask, “what is God’s will for my life?” They make a big deal out of trying to figure out if God is calling them to be a pastor, a teacher, or an astronaut. I’ve been there. I’ve fallen into that trap many times myself. I’ve equated God’s will for my life with my vocation or with my marital status or with future aspirations. HOWEVER, it’s actually a lot simpler than that. There’s really no reason to complicate it! Do you want to know what God’s will for your life is? It’s the same as His will for every other Christian’s life! His will is that you get to know Him and in knowing Him that you seek to reach out to the lost and the hurting.
You know the Ten Commandments right? If not, you should watch the Charlton Heston movie sometime! Well, the 10 Commandments did have their place back in the day when the Law was written. People were running to and fro trying to keep all these dos and don’ts. But when Jesus came along He said, “The Law has its place. I’m not here to get rid of the Law, but I’m here to fulfill it!” Then He went on to say, “you guys are complicating this thing way too much, so let me make it easy for you. My WILL is simply this – love God and love everyone else. That’s it. If you’ve got those two things down-pat, you won’t have to worry about the other laws because they will already be fulfilled!”
In another Switchfoot album, Vice Verses, there is this incredible lyric, “A steering wheel don’t mean you can drive. A warm body don’t mean you’re alive. I want to thrive not just survive.” The Christian life is a difficult one to live. That’s why when you meet people who say things to you like “the Christian faith is just a crutch to help you get through life” you can be sure that the person saying it probably hasn’t lived a singled day as an on-fire Christian. Christ Himself tells us that in this world we’re going to have many troubles, BUT we can take heart because He has overcome the world. Just because you go to church, you grew up in a Christian family, or you are in seminary does not automatically make you an on-fire Christian any more than sitting in the driver’s seat of a car without a valid license means that you are legally allowed to drive on the freeway! You can be living the Christian lifestyle and be relatively dead to Christ! That’s why if you truly want to seek out the Lord’s Will for your life you have to surrender fully to Him and ask Him to help you THRIVE not just SURVIVE. Anyone can survive. Surviving is relatively easy as long as you live in a cushy environment that is generally carefree. But to really THRIVE in your faith means that you’ve got to take some risks, that you have to reach out to those who aren’t like you, and that you are even called to pray for those who have nothing good to say about you! Thriving in the Christian faith doesn’t just mean going to church once a month or reading your Bible whenever you feel like it, it means living the Christian life 24/7. It’s that demanding of a lifestyle. It isn’t for wimps or for those who easily give up. Thankfully, by God’s grace, we ARE able to continue living that life even when we start to be weak or weary because He promises us that He will sustain us.
TO LISTEN TO THE HURRICANE ALBUM: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wkf7rA7jPAo
TO LISTEN TO THE VICE VERSES ALBUM: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMk1yCqYALs
 We cannot stop telling all we have seen and heard! http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts+4%3A20&version=ESVUK