Love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself
For three years, Jean Vanier has echoed in my head. Vanier founded l’Arche, a global network of homes shared by people with developmental disabilities and people without developmental disabilities. While many adults with developmental disabilities live in group homes where staff work an eight-hour shift and then go home, in l’Arche homes, the resident assistants work their shift but then live in that same home. L’Arche stands out as a unique vision of community where people truly share the joys and sorrows, idiosyncrasies and pains of everyone in the community. A devout Roman Catholic, Vanier began l’Arche when he retired from the French military and befriended two men with developmental disabilities in his community. Now rather elderly, Vanier has written many books, the best of which, in my opinion, is Becoming Human where he explores loneliness, acceptance, love, belonging, and community.
Vanier echoes in my head because, when I read Becoming Human, I knew I wanted to help fashion community like the ones he has shepherded, community where people are accepted and loved as they are, not as I’d like them to be. That kind of community is Christian community.
The other demand that echoes in my head is a demand for programming, for success, for praise-worthy events. While the demand more likely stems from my own inner monologue than the demands of others, I do feel pressure when people ask “So, how’s everything at church?” to produce stories and statistics of success and creativity. I imagine the same is true for all of us, whether the demand is in our professional lives or personal lives. Perhaps the demand comes from inside us, perhaps from our boss, perhaps from our family or friends. We don’t want to fail. We don’t want to be uncomfortable. We don’t want to appear weak.
What I recently realized is that, actually, the only thing I must do is love. Loving people and prioritizing love above all other goals really is okay. I don’t need to prioritize programs or numbers above loving people. More than that, when I love people, I am successful because love is the call of the gospel.
In a couple months, I’ll turn 40. Ah! I can’t believe it has taken me this long to figure out the simplest of Jesus’ teachings.