I’ve been reading Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero. He writes this about the human condition: “I can’t help but experience life with me at the center of my universe. I prefer those close to me to think, feel and act toward the world in the same way I do. I act the same way in my relationship with God … as if I am the center of the universe.”
He then quotes Canadian theologian, philosopher and humanitarian Jean Vanier: “To love is to reveal the beauty of another person to themselves.” Vanier died May 9 at the age of 90.
In 1964, he founded what became L’Arche, a network of communities where adults with disabilities — and those without them — live, work and care for each other. Today, there are 150 such communities in 15 countries.
I am challenged and inspired by Vanier’s perspective: “The [human] quest is not just believing in God, but believing in other people. Believing in ourselves as children of God, and that we are called to see other people as God sees them, not as we would like them to be.”
I can’t think of a more effective cure for our divisive times and broken hearts than to live out this vision.
In a 2006 interview, Vanier reflected about a serial killer who had been imprisoned for five murders. With characteristic gentleness, he said, “He needs someone who will see that behind all those walls that have been created, there’s a little child who has never been awakened. Will he find one day somebody who will reveal to him his beauty? That he is a child of God? That he is precious?”
Two thousand years ago, Jesus distilled human life down to this: “Show your love for God by loving your neighbor as yourself.” To love is to reveal the beauty of another person to themselves.
Jesus exemplified it then.
He offers it to each of us now.
Everything changes when we grasp that we are completely known and loved by God at the same time — all the time. God reads the parts of our stories that are hidden, even from ourselves. He searches our pages not for evidence to accuse, but to open a redemptive entry into our story. His respect and devotion toward us are infinite. When He speaks truth, it is always to call us into the greater life He is living all around us.
Here is a prayer from Scazzero’s book that I need to keep praying:
“Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me. I am aware of how often I treat people as Its, as objects, instead of looking at them with the eyes and heart of Christ. Unhealthy ways of relating are deeply embedded in me. Please change me. Make me a vessel to spread mature, steady, reliable love so that people with whom I come in contact will sense your tenderness and kindness. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.”
Russel Jarvis has lived in Hancock County since 1989 and has served as the lead chaplain at Hancock Regional Hospital since August 2003. This weekly column is written by local clergy members. Send comments to [email protected].