I receive a daily reflection from the L’Arche Community. Today’s thought from Jean Vanier was about the difficulty we have understanding that we all struggle with good and evil, with light and darkness, with good choices and bad choices.
Nobody crosses over I remember being in Chili, going along a road from the airport. My driver told me, “Oh, here on the right are all the rich houses, and here on the left are the slums. And nobody crosses over this road.” We live in an incredibly wounded world. I don’t want to give the impression that there are goodies and baddies and that we can issue a moral judgment. We all know that within the slum area there are incredibly beautiful men and women–and incredibly beautiful mothers and fathers who are struggling against a drug culture. Likewise, on the other side of the road in the rich areas, there are incredibly beautiful people. It’s not as simple as good people versus bad people. That road was like a wall. Within each of us there is also a wall.
While we live in a world which increasingly sets up all issues in a binary fashion, our lived experience declares to the world around us that most of life is not black and white. Don’t get me wrong. There are many days I wish things were more monochromatic. I am sure it would feel simpler for all of us if we could easily identify the ‘good guys’ and the ‘bad guys,’ the ‘good places’ from the ‘bad places,’ the ‘right thoughts’ from the ‘wrong thoughts.’ If life were that simple. Light and darkness may be binary we understand but there are many parts of our lived experience that are dusk and dawn. Our life would, no doubt, be less complex if we could easily distinguish the ‘goodies from the baddies.’ Without question, we would be among the goodies…. Right? Ah but wait! We all struggle, we all at times reflect Light. We all at times embrace darkness. And we all (speaking in a Christian context here), at times, live in the shadows struggling to follow along ‘The Way’ seeking to choose to embrace Light as expressed in Jesus Christ. The Russian novelist and Orthodox Christian Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wisely put it this way….
Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an unuprooted small corner of evil. Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person.” ― The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
So life is not monochromatic. It a kaleidoscope of many colours. It is party thus because we all add to the colour. We each play our own role on the spectrum. Sometimes we are able to shine with brilliant bright colours and at other times we are too dense, or too fogged up, for the light to shine through – at least it remains so for me. So I will work to be a clear lens through which God’s might reflect light and colour… Check that… I will work to be a ‘clearer’ lens for God to work with…. Acknowledging that it may need to be cleaned up a little more often. I will work to cross over… To remove the wall within…. How about you?
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