We have an incredible tradition in L’Arche: story-telling. If you aren’t a story-teller when you first arrive, you will be by the end of your first year. One of our favourite stories to tell is our own. Usually about the journey our lives have taken us on and how we inadvertently found ourselves in L’Arche. Everyone’s story is different and completely unique, and no one’s story is better than anyone else’s. For some, the main driving factor was adventure-seeking. They wanted to experience something completely different than what they had ever known before, they wanted to explore a new country, or they wanted to improve their English, French, or some other language. Others were motivated by the idea of living together in an intentional way. Some were drawn in because they needed employment and when all other doors were shut, they thought they’d get outside their comfort zone and work in an environment they never would have considered before. Still others were quietly called into this sense of “being”, of “wasting time” and of being present. Quite a few of our assistants are deeply spiritual. Although not everyone identifies as a Christian (despite our organization having Christian roots), many still have a desire to reach out and to support others. They live their spirituality in the broadest sense of the word…not for the sake of religion, but for the sake of life itself.
If you’ve been involved with L’Arche over a year or two, you likely have shared your stories on numerous occasions. Every time a new assistant moves into your house, anytime you have coffee with a friend from the wider world who is curious about L’Arche, anytime you apply to move to a different community and go for an interview – you have the opportunity to once again live into your story and you invite others to share their stories with you as well.
Last year I went on my first ever all assistant’s upper year retreat. This is an annual event that takes place in a rural town in Scotland where we spend 4 days together thinking, praying, imagining, and reflecting upon our journeys. As is our tradition, each person was also requested to prepare a 15-20 minute presentation about themselves, their L’Arche story and their overall sense of call to our on-going ministry. Although we have all shared our stories on numerous occasions, each time we recount the reasons we came to L’Arche we are intentionally drawn to the pause.
Why did I join L’Arche in the first place? Are those same factors still motivating me or have new motivations taken root?
Am I still being fed and nourished by my original sense of call? Or is my time in L’Arche perhaps coming to a close?
How can I remain passionate like I was in my first year, in my first house, and in my first community? Is this calling meant to be an on-going thing or was it simply meant for a time and for a season?
Although this is just one example and clearly most of you reading this are not (and perhaps will never be) part of L’Arche, these are the same questions we must contentiously ask ourselves and test out with other regardless of our vocational calling. Be gentle with yourself. There are no right or wrong answers.
Who are the people you can share a part of your story with today? Who are the people you’ve always been curious about that you would like to meet with to hear part of their story? How can we live into one another’s stories gently and with respect?
This week, I’d like to give you a challenge: become a story-teller. If you’re more of a shy, private type of person, challenge yourself to get outside your comfort zone this week and to share a bit of who you are with your closest friends and family. If you’re more of an extrovert who likes to talk a lot (like I am), my challenge is the exact opposite. Learn to be still, to listen, and to be fully present and engaged. Ask a friend, colleague, or family member about their personal story. Perhaps how they became involved in a certain cause or profession, or what lights up their life and really gives them energy and vitality. Listen, don’t talk. Ask leading questions to gather more information, but refrain from interjecting too much of your own story into what they are saying. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, talkative or shy…find a way to live into another person’s moment.
And if you don’t know where to start, here’s a great lead-in question:
How have you seen God at work this week? How have you seen God at work today?
At the end of the week, feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) about what you learned about yourself and others around you. Happy listening!