There is something about this video that means I never tire of watching it. When I watch, I see Love, Peace, Life, Wisdom, Compassion. I see Jesus in Jean Vanier.
In describing how Jesus led him to meet with people with severe mental and physical handicaps, he speaks of what he heard coming from within them. A deep cry, what he calls the primal cry. “Do you love me?”
The last few months I’ve been consciously aware that this cry is one that is within each of us. It doesn’t matter who we are, what we do or don’t do. There is a primal cry within each of us to be loved and to know that we are loved. This is the desire of the Father, to reveal to each of us that we are loved no matter what, and that it is true that he gave his only Son because he loved this world so much. That includes each and every person, past, present or future. It is something he wants to reveal to each one of us personally.
And he wants to do that for others through us. Christ in us is not a nice catchphrase. He is the experience for us, and he is for sharing with others.
The last couple of weeks I’ve been sat with my friend Philip. Philip has spent most of the summer at his mums. It was amazing for him to go, a huge step forward after two and a half years of not seeing her. He spent a total of 11 weeks away, with a week back in Aldershot in between.
Coming back from his mums has been difficult for him. It’s funny how (just as I mentioned about the disciples in the post The Morning After The Night Before), we return to what we know when we feel uncertain and unsure about things. And so we have been back on the bench. But it’s different for me and it’s different for him. He is not the man on the bench. He was once, but he is not that man any longer. He is a different man. Jesus knows it. I know it. And Philip is getting to know it too.
I know that what Jesus has done before, he can and will do again. It’s all about remembering. Reminding Philip of who Jesus is and who he is. The first thing was to remind Philip of all that Jesus has done so far. There was a beautiful moment on Wednesday last week when I found Philip on the bench. It was mid afternoon, he’d been there a while. I sat down next to him, and he was crying. I asked if he was OK, and he said, “I’ve just been talking to Christ. I’ve been talking to my friend. And guess what? He hugged me. He actually hugged me.”
Philip comes out with these things. He’s not read a bible. He hasn’t done church. No-one teaches him these things or instills them in him. He has a wonderful simplicity to him that means he can be struggling where he is in life, sitting on a bench he has walked away from before, and yet experience Jesus in such profound ways. And then I and others have the pleasure of hearing him share these things!
So last week there was one word that kept coming up when I was listening to him. “Fear.” On Thursday last week, we sat on the bench again and I felt to talk with Philip about how fear will leave us. Scripture tells us this.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
In the course of our conversation, there was something that came to me to give to Philip. It was that he was waiting for the fear to go before receiving Love. So many people find it difficult to be loved. They struggle to receive Love. They don’t feel they deserve Love. Or they feel that Love must be earned in some way. And they struggle to receive Love for fear that they will be hurt again. The primal cry is there within them, but because of their past experiences, they are afraid to be loved.
But if we have fear, we don’t have to rid ourselves of the fear to know Love. We must accept that we are loved, receive Love, and let Love do his work. If it’s true what it says above, then when this Love is received it is not a flowery, floaty, airy fairy type of Love. He is a force. Passionate, powerful. This Love does exactly what he says, drives out fear. In the same way that Jesus was zealous and drove out the moneychangers from the temple, I imagine Love himself forcefully driving out fear from within us. And this comes from simply receiving Love himself.
It took a few days to sink in for Philip that he is loved. No conditions, no reason, and no payback required. Thursday we began to practise something. We sat on the bench, and we focused on breathing. It dawns on me that receiving Love (and in fact all that Christ himself is), is beautifully simple. It is not meant to be a struggle. It is meant to be as simple as breathing. So, when Philip began to feel anxious, the two of us began to breathe in Love, Peace, Life and Joy, and breathe out fear and anxiety. After a few mins, he turned and said “I feel calm.” And we began to laugh as well!
We moved round the corner to Frankie’s cafe, where we were joined shortly after by a few others. Philip began to feel anxious again, and the five of us began to breathe in Love, Peace, Life and Joy with him, and he was calm again. It must have been quite something to watch for anyone walking past the cafe mind you.
I knew Philip was getting it on Sunday afternoon when, as we were parting company, he said, “I deserve you.” There is usually a don’t in that sentence when he says it! He is doing well and Love is doing a good work in him.
There is something else that I’ve been reminded of again recently. People who have been drawn are carrying some heavy burdens and walk around with some very obvious, gaping wounds. They live in what seems like a completely different world to us. Whether it’s one that involves drugs, alcohol, abuse/violence, it’s somewhat different to the sheltered and protected life I (and others) have known. And consequently, the things they choose to do as a result of those burdens and wounds that they’ve carried for most of their lives are often confusing for us, and at times even disturbing to us.
We have had a number of ongoing situations that we’ve been involved in like this the last few months. When I talked about multiplication a while back, yes, it has happened and is happening. And some.
And in all these things, I’ve been challenged, as I think Paul was, to choose not to know anyone according to the flesh. It’s not that we ignore the things that we see, or we aren’t aware of them. But it is choosing not to hold those things and judge people as we think they should be judged.
As I was getting ready this morning, a very old song by Chuck Girard came to mind. “Don’t Shoot The Wounded.”
It’s a reminder that when we see others who are wounded and doing things that we see as wrong, rather than lining them up in our sights to shoot them and wound them even more or even put them to death, we should let Love within us bring them to a place of healing. That is choosing not to know anyone according to the flesh. To choose not to shoot but to Love instead. The reason being, as the last line of the chorus says, “Don’t shoot the wounded, some day you might be one.”
I’ve been there. Lined up shots at people. Judged because I thought I was better than them and that I had all the right answers. And then in 2014, bang. I was the wounded one. It took some time but Father was faithful to reveal Christ in me and since that time I’ve learnt just what it is to bring Love to others so that they know that there is no punishment in Love, and that Perfect Love drives out fear from within them.
To hear the cry of the sheep of Jesus “Do you love me?” leaves you with a choice. Ignore it, or respond to it. And there is only one way to respond. “Father, reveal your Son in me as Love for these people.” You and I are the ones who Love is revealed in and through.
Choose to love those around you today. The fear that they carry is only driven out by Love himself, and you and I can be the ones who Father reveals his Son in as Love. Sit on the bench with those feeling unloved and isolated. For the ones sitting in the doorways, sit with them and love them. Listen to the words of those Father has drawn to you, but more importantly listen to and hear the primal cry within them, “Do you love me?”
And then share Truth with them.
“Perfect Love drives out fear. You are loved.”
Eat the Living Bread, drink the Living Water.