Sunday, 18 August 2019

A glimpse at the alloverness of God

A FRIEND and I have begun painting together. As part of our painting sessions, we carefully work on what we feel is the main focus and the most important part of the picture, putting our highlighting and shading in the right places to emphasise this. 

So I was interested to discover that some painters use an “alloverness” approach where no one part of the canvas or picture is more important than another; the top is not more important than the bottom, nor the left side than the right side. All has equal value.

There are some people who can make us feel like that too: that we are all equally valued, that no one person is more important than another, that each is treated with equal respect.

French Canadian Jean Vanier was one such person. As a young man, Jean had been so shocked at the conditions that housed 80 intellectually disabled people in eastern France that, in 1964, he bought a ramshackle house and invited three of the men to live with him.

This was a radical act in those days and yet the dilapidated house became the foundation of L’Arche (the Ark), the community that Jean established for those living with disability.

By the time he died in May this year there were more than 140 L’Arche communities in 40 countries..

Born in Geneva in 1928 to a Christian family from Quebec, Jean initially explored a calling to be a priest but found that God was leading him in a different direction and that direction eventually led him to begin L’Arche. As others joined him in this venture, Jean’s alloverness became apparent.

Assistants arrived believing that they were there to transform the lives of the people they cared for.  When they left, they realised that in fact they were the ones whose lives had been transformed, transformed by those whom society perceived as weak and vulnerable. 

Jean, through his own humility, would encourage people to seek and to find Christ in one another.

He based his life on relationship — relationship with God, relationship with others — and gathered many of his thought-
provoking reflections that resulted from study, prayer and life in L’Arche communities into the 30 books he wrote during his long life.

Through Jean Vanier, and those like him, we have a glimpse of the alloverness of God who loves each one of us and longs to welcome us just as we are. 

In the colourful and varied canvas of God’s Kingdom, no matter who we are or where are, we are loved equally. 

In the strength of that knowledge, and through exploring the picture that forms our own lives, are there areas that we could paint differently? Is there a way that we could begin to do that this week?

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