More Light in the Darkness

Pastor Yme Woensdregt writes about instances where he saw the expansive love of God.

Last week I wrote about some people and events which are like points of light in the midst of what seems like such an overpowering darkness in our world. My own perspective on life (my worldview) is that these people and events are signs of God’s grace and love at work in our world. As such, it is intensely personal and idiosyncratic.

Others might understand what these people are doing and the meaning of these events differently. For example, I mentioned Malala Yousafzai last week. As a Muslim woman, I don’t know if she would read the world the same way I do or not. If she is a person of devout faith, she might well see her actions in the light of her understanding of God. If she is not a person of faith, she might not.

I am not claiming anything on her behalf, or on behalf of anyone else. This is my way of reading the world. This is my perspective.

It is always possible that two people will read the same events in different ways. Part of the purpose of my writing these columns is to share my perspective in the hope that it might foster dialogue between people.

So let me share some more instances of what I see as light in the world, signs of God’s incredible and expansive love.

One of my heroes is Jean Vanier. The son of a Governor–General of Canada, Georges Vanier, and a Rhodes scholar, he grew up in a well–to–do household, with many of the perks and privileges that come along with such an upbringing. In the early 1960s, he went to visit a Catholic priest who was the chaplain of a residence which welcomed about 30 men with an intellectual disability.

It was a life–changing moment for Vanier. As a result, he bought a house in Trosly–Breuil, about 75 kilometres north of Paris. He named it L’Arche, “The Ark”. He lived there very simply with two men he had met. As he said in an interview, “I had no long-term plan. The only thing I was sure of as I began, was that this beginning was an irreversible act. Raphael, Philippe and I started very simply to live together.  We cooked together, ate together, did the shopping together, and worked together in the garden.  We lived very poorly materially,” … but it was the beginning of a movement that has circled the globe. Today, there are L’Arche homes in many of the world’s cities now, places of hope and refuge.

Another instance of light is the “It Gets Better Project” with a “mission to communicate to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth around the world that it gets better, and to create and inspire the changes needed to make it better for them.”

It began in September 2010 with a Youtube video created to inspire hope for young people facing harassment and bullying. In response to a number of students taking their own lives after being bullied in school, [Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller] wanted to create a personal way for supporters everywhere to tell LGBT youth that, yes, it does indeed get better.”

The website has a timeline which shows many ways in which it has gotten better in many different places—countries have begun to legalize gay marriage; people are recognizing that bullying LGBT people or discriminating against them is simply not acceptable.

Another instance of light is found in the Charter of Compassion. Originally begun by Karen Armstrong in 2008, the Charter is a document (which can be signed online) promoting compassion as a way of life for all people. The website indicates that the “Charter for Compassion is a document that transcends religious, ideological, and national differences. Supported by leading thinkers from many traditions, the Charter activates the Golden Rule around the world.”

An amazing part of this initiative is the “International Campaign for Compassionate Communities.” This campaign “envisions a richly diverse ‘network of networks,’ people from every sector — business, healthcare, education, government, faith and interfaith, peace and non–violence, the arts, and those working to preserve the environment — who will bring compassion to everything they do, and who will take responsibility for igniting the compassion of the general community to care for each other and for the well-being of all members of the community from birth through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood to old age and death.”

These are but three examples of people and movements in the world who are committed to making this world more whole, more just, more loving. We don’t hear much about them on the news. After all, as the old adage has it, “if it bleeds, it leads.”

Frankly, I’d like to hear more stories where people stop the bleeding and initiate healing and grace.

Yme Woensdregt is Pastor at Christ Church Anglican in Cranbrook