I said that I’d post here the passage we read and discussed last night in our Lent skpye conversation. Since the start of Lent each week one of us has chosen something to share from a book we have enjoyed or been inspired or challenged by, and then there is a time for all of us to discuss any thoughts that arise from that. It is part of our continued journey as a group exploring faith, nonviolence, community and ways of doing this when we live all over the UK.
The book I read from is ‘Becoming Human’ by Jean Vanier the founder of the L’Arche community. I read it a few years ago and was greatly inspired by his honesty, integrity and faith, and really like the way he writes. The chapter this is from is called ‘The Path to Freedom’
Signs of Freedom
What is this freedom? Read part of this poem by Rudyard Kipling. It is called “If.”
If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired of waiting, or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, or being hated, don’t give way to hating…..
Freedom is the freedom of truth. Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.” A lack of freedom equals fear – fear of reality, fear of others; lack of freedom means clinging to illusions and prejudices and sometimes even to lies. A lack of freedom means being governed by compulsions instead of governing them. It is imposing a vision on reality or wanting to change reality through force instead of forming a new vision of reality. Lack of freedom means thinking that you alone have the truth and that others are wrong or stupid. It means being controlled by prejudice.
In the previous chapter, I talked about people’s fear of those with intellectual disabilities and about the many prejudices against them. Frequently, these fears are groundless. Some of those who are frightened of people with intellectual disabilities may never have met anyone with disabilities. When they get to know them, however, their fears and prejudices usually dissipate. On the other hand, for some people, their fears and prejudices are so deeply rooted that they refuse to meet any person who has a disability. They already “know” that those with disabilities are “mad” and useless. Prejudices like these are frequently based on a great fear of change; people do not want to be disturbed in their security or have their value systems questioned. They do not want to open their hearts to those who are different. People with prejudices are not free.
To be free is to know who we are, with all that is beautiful, all the brokenness in us; it is to love our own values, to embrace them, and to develop them; it is to be anchored in a vision and a truth but also to be open to others and, so, to change. Freedom lies in discovering that the truth is not a set of fixed certitudes but a mystery we enter into, one step at a time. It is a process of going deeper and deeper into an unfathomable reality.
In this journey of integrating our experience and our values, and of what we might learn as we listen to others, there may be a period of anguish. We need to find links between the old and the new, links that will permit the integration of new, consciousness-expanding truths into what we already know and are living – our existing certitudes. As human sciences develop and the world evolves, we are called to grow into a new and deeper understanding of the Source of the universe and of life. As we participate in this, our sense of the true expands. Freedom is to be in awe of this Source, of the beauty and diversity of people, and of the universe. It is to contemplate the height and breadth of all that is true.
Freedom is to accept that when we belong to a group, a race, a tribe, a family, a community, a religion, that none of these is perfect, that each has its limits and weaknesses. Every community of humans has its light and its darkness. We are all part of something greater than ourselves. We all flow from a source that is unfathomable and we are all journeying towards it, carrying with us that light of truth and love. Each of us is called to be in communion with the source and heart of the universe. The infinite yearnings of our hearts are calling us to be in communion with the Infinite. None of us can be satisfied with the limited and the finite. Each one must be free to follow the Spirit of God….
…..My main teacher on the road to freedom is Jesus, and I am thankful to my church, which has brought me closer to Him. I am touched and attracted by His total freedom and yearn to find that. It is the freedom the apostle Paul speaks of:
Above all brothers and sisters you are called to be free; Do not use you freedom for an openness to self-indulgence, but be servants to one another in love…. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, truthfulness, gentleness and self-control. No law can touch such things as these.
(Galatians 5:13, 22-23)
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human