Each week in the summer Sarah Lineberry’s church invites a member to share a reflection at a Wednesday vespers service. This week was Sarah’s turn, and the overall theme for the evening was “Delays and Detours.” She reflected upon 1 Kings 19: 9-15 (Elijah and the still, small voice) as she spoke about her L’Arche journey.
I’m a social worker with L’Arche, a nonprofit that supports people with developmental disabilities. When I share this, the first response I usually get is “oh, you must be so patient.” I have to laugh, because it’s so completely not true. This is actually the second time I’ve given a reflection at church about how much I hate waiting.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t really seem to care about how much I enjoy having a plan. While I certainly don’t enjoy uncertainty, I like to think I’ve grown some in my ability to trust the journey.
When I was a senior in college, I applied to the Masters in Social Work program at UNC-Chapel Hill, which I also attended for my undergraduate degree. I didn’t get in. And the two schools where I was accepted were private, so I couldn’t afford to attend. The same week I found out I wasn’t accepted to the Master’s program, I was also turned down for a leadership position at the summer camp I’d worked at for three years. I was, suddenly, completely without a plan.
I took a few days to mope–and was happy to see that Elijah gives a Biblical precedent for doing so–then started exploring my options. Because I didn’t have a summer job, I was able to travel to England and Scotland with the campus ministry I’d attended all through college. We spent the first part of our trip on a pilgrimage along Hadrian’s Wall, then had free days in Edinburgh. It just so happened that the leader of our pilgrimage had written his doctoral thesis on integrated faith communities and had spent time with L’Arche. I’d volunteered with folks with disabilities in college and was intrigued by the L’Arche model, where people with and without disabilities share life together. We had the opportunity to visit with the L’Arche community in Edinburgh in late May and then I was on a plane in August to spend a year with L’Arche.
I didn’t expect L’Arche to have the impact that it did. I certainly didn’t expect to come back to L’Arche after finishing my MSW, or to relocate to Chicago to do so. In many ways, the people I’ve met through L’Arche have become my still, small voice. In a world that rages around us, they remind me to slow down and simply be. They are often reliant on others for basic needs, reminding me of the power of trust and vulnerability.
In L’Arche we celebrate each other’s anniversaries in community by sharing affirmations. One individual often tells people “God is love. I see God in you.” For someone like me, who would often prefer God to speak in clear, obvious ways, an earthquake sounds great. It’s good to be reminded that the quiet voices matter, too, and often lead us where we need to go.