Monday, March 31, 2008

Getting Real

As some of you know, I've applied to stay on for next term. Just as before, writing my letter of application was a good processing exercise for me, and I want to share it with you. (I will find out next week if I am able to stay.)


In May and June of last summer my reasons for coming to L’Abri revolved around the values for which L’Abri stands, values such as integrated, holistic living: mind, body, and spirit journeying Homeward, that is, being more and more at home within one’s self, one’s community, even the whole of creation. I came here because I love learning: the growth, the discussion, the lightbulb moments of connection; and the environment in which our studies take place is idyllic, a shelter amid the Swiss Alps, a safe place to be and to become. It only took a few days for my purpose to shift slightly from merely intellectual to modestly personal: an intellectual and practical pursuit of the inner workings of my day-to-day Christian life. As it turns out, I needed to be here more than I realized. And the longer I am here, the more I am confronted by community, forced to deal with issues I had forgotten, issues I keep hidden beneath the surface of my soul. As Jasie encourages me to do more than merely talk about ontology and actually be myself – my whole self – I realize I am too much in the habit of ignoring things in my life that aren’t pretty to look at or nice to talk about; or at best, I gloss over them to candy-coat my memories, creating a sugar-coated story. And this is far from charity – it is neither charitable to me nor to those who love me.

So as I contemplate charity and what it means to live christianly praying, “Thy kingdom come,” I consider L’Abri: what it is and what it means to me. L’Abri is a safe place, though it is not safe for my pride nor the false images I’ve made of myself and presented to the world; it is not a safe place within which my insecurities can hide. For there are people here who have been living in community long enough to recognize a counterfeit self, and though my airbrushed self-portraits are of interest to the world, L’Abri, by which I mean the people who are L’Abri to me, is not interested. For the world sees people through utilitarian lenses, but the workers here, as well as some of the friends I’ve found, see through Love. Not perfectly, but even so, it is through our imperfections we learn forgiveness, grace, healing; we learn love. And this is what Christianity is about; this is what L’Abri is about: love as the demonstration of God’s actively redemptive existence in the world, namely the cross and resurrection of his Christ. This is what I want to be about. Or want to be better about. And L’Abri seems the best place to cultivate such charity (that is, learning to give of my whole self) for yet a little while longer. L’Abri is a safe place. Or rather, it is a trustworthy place. For within the hospitable charity which distinguishes L’Abri I am learning, however slowly, to entrust my needs and my insecurities to friends here, trusting that my real self will be nurtured – not kept safe from pain, but cared for – even as my graven images (images of self-god which replace with vulgarity the image-of-God-bearing self) are being pulled down. Christ claims to give abundant life and I desire to have the courage to live in that fullness with all its suffering and glory, because not to abide in the courage of Christ, to refuse to say ‘yes’ moment by moment (mundane as they often may be) to the call of a disciple, is to spit on the cross and scoff at the resurrection. I don’t want to be that kind of “Christian.” But I don’t have that kind of courage. Not without the courage of others, and even so I am feeble and fearful and want of freedom.

My interest in the possibility of a full-time position at Swiss L’Abri is also a factor in my desire to stay. In fact, it has been in my thoughts from the beginning; again, because I value so highly what takes place here. The work of pursuing Truth and providing Home is important to me and I enjoy being a part of it. I think about the possibility of remaining in the work for some extended period of time, and I don’t know if I can maintain the kind of life-in-flux that occurs here. I don’t know a lot of things. But that is yet another reality which L’Abri is helping me understand: that I don’t have to know how the next phase of my life, or even the next day is going to turn out. I hope that my presence within this community contributes to the work and the lives of people in positive, even unique ways. I hope to continue my work here, even if just for one more term, and to bring to maturity that which the Father has begun in me through you. How one attempts to say thank you for even such a beginning, well, I’m not sure it’s fully possible.