I’m a little bit lost for words at the richness of this season I’m in. Whether it’s the gift of time and space, for the peaceful pull towards His heart, for wisdom out of nowhere, for clear night skies when I feel delightfully small and am reminded that my God is infinitely big and infinitely able, for dancing snowflakes that tell me He cares about the details too, for the colours of autumn tumbling down the mountain side, for birdsong, for fresh vegetables that I can create all sorts of things with, for majestical sunsets, for faith filled friends, for the things that are starting to make sense in French, for all the rich opportunities I have…. I could go on and on. I’m so surprised by this season of joy.
But on top of all that I just got to spend a few days at Taizé – a community of a 100 or so Brothers who seek justice and unity. It all started with someone called Brother Roger in the 1940s and ‘The story of Taizé’ is well worth a read if you want to know more. During the second world war where Christians were killing each other, as well as being moved by the disunity amongst Christian denominations, Brother Roger writes, ‘I wondered if a way existed by which one person might understand another completely. I made a decision to assume that way does exist… it needed to begin with myself, to commit myself to understand everything of every other person and it would involve constant return…. I would try and understand everything, rather than try to make everyone understand me… it would involve a lifetime of kindness and mercy…’.
Brother Roger believed that everyone is sacred, especially those in need. He set up the community in the village of Taizé because it was extremely poor – he believed Christ was closest to the poor and committed himself to a lifetime of poverty. He started alone, knowing he couldn’t force others to see the same way he did. The community now hosts thousands and thousands of visitors every year – 90% of whom are in their teens or twenties.
Why am I sharing this? I guess because this place really touched me. To see the commitment of these brothers, to take part in their times of prayer, to witness and to join the singing which felt like it came from Heaven and touched my deepest parts and to be reminded that my life is not my own.
Here are a few of the beautifully simple songs they sing:
Jésus le Christ, lumiére intérieure, ne laisse pas mes ténèbres me parler. Jésus le Christ, lumiére intérieure, donne-moi d’accueilir ton amour. (Lord Jesus Christ, your light shines within us. Let not my doubts or darkness speak to me. Lord Jesus Christ, your light shines within us. Let my heart always welcome your love)
Fiez-vous en Lui, ne craignez pas. La paix de Dieu gardera vos coeurs. Fiez vous en Lui. Alléluia, alleluia. (Trust in Him and do not fear. God’s peace will protect your hearts)
Veni Sancte Spiritus, tu iamoris ignem accende. (Holy Spirit, come to us, kindle in us the light of your love)
Ubi Caritas et amour, ubi caritas Deus ibi est (Where there is charity and love, God is to be found)
After several years working away with Mercy Ships and in this season of abundance, it’s tempting to feel the draw ‘home’. I miss my little flat, the independence, friends, family…. all those things. But at Taizé I was struck as I reflected on my motives. What is my life purpose? Brother Roger talks of Christ’s secret: that He loved us first and that the meaning of our life is therefore, ‘…to be loved forever, to be clothed by forgiveness and trust so that you can then take the risk of giving your life’. One visitor to Taizé talks of discovering, ‘… the deep significance of reconciliation, that living force of hope called forgiveness – not just words, but the means God gives us to live together in peace and understanding’. Taizé has been described as a, ‘springtime for all who are searching for true life’.
And suffice it to say, I found life there. More so than in the entangled thoughts of what the world might ‘owe me’ for my work the last 12 years, or the comforts I might be deserving of, given the sacrifices I had made. It all feels like such nonsense. Tempting, but nonsense. The devotion of these brothers truly touched me. They live out a ‘parable of Community’, not to draw attention to themselves but to point to something beyond themselves.
I want to live a life that reveals something beyond myself. I want to joyfully use my gift of life for others. I can do that anywhere and I will try. But the subtle pull towards home, which represents ‘comfort and ease’ (for me) is nothing more than that. I’m not saying it represents comfort and ease for everyone – far from it, so don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. I just want to do what I was created for and not get distracted by other ‘good things’. I want to use my life well and this visit allowed me to reflect a little on what that might look like.
‘If a trusting heart were at the beginning of everything, you would be ready to dare a ‘yes’ for your whole life’ (Brother Roger). Trust reminds us that we are not the ones who have to accomplish everything ourselves and it was a reminder I needed.
Life in Albertville continues until Easter and after that my plans are still unsure. I am inspired by Brother Roger’s lifetime commitment to kindness and mercy. I hope to keep working with Mercy Ships, but for now I’ll stick with receiving these abundant showers of love so that I can take them wherever my Jesus leads.
Love forever, KWW x
From my bedroom window