Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"2 BY 2"

No sooner had I posted the article on Bittersweet Farms in Ohio than I received this one about the L'Arche community in Tacoma, Washington. Residents maintain a farm, create and sell products at local farmer's markets, and engage in meaningful relationships. They are a family group committed to a simple life and conscious of spirituality. Why does this ring a bell? After a bit of research and head tapping, I remembered. L'Arche is the place that inspired several of Henri Nouwen's books (one of which I read years ago before my interest in autism). He is one of the fathers of contemplative spirituality. While living with people with developmental disabilities, Nouwen's understanding of service, relationship, connectedness, faith and Christ-likeness was redefined. He writes about how he benefited from their presence.

L'Arche is an international network of 133 communities founded by Jean Vanier in France in 1964. The journal of Nouwen's year at L’Arche Trosly is captured in The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey. Another book, Adam, God's Beloved, is an inspiring account of how his life was transformed through friendship with a core member of the L'Arche Daybreak community in Toronto. I love the empowerment and inclusion that is integral to their philosophy; they are intentional about creating mutually beneficial relationship and developing the unique gifts of each individual. Amen to that! The L'Arche story is told in depth in this excellent 14 minute interview.

L'Arche means "the ark" in French. My license plates have read "2 BY 2" since my kids were a year old. The selection of these vanity plates is a triple entendre. I'm not sure the average passerby gets any of the three references. More than once, men have chuckled and commented on my plates thinking I am making an anti-4-wheeler statement, as if to say, "Awww that's cute...she only has 2-wheel drive." Little do they know, it referred to the lovely picture book we read every night at bedtime, Twins: Two by Two by Catherine and Laurence Anholt. Their whimsical illustrations of boy and girl twins (like ours) show them role playing various species: crocodiles splashing in the bathroom, kangaroos jumping into bed, and mice all curled up asleep. Memories...!

The 2 BY 2 plates were also a more overt reference to Noah's ark in celebration of our babies arriving as a pair. Our vehicle was decked with double car seats and life felt suddenly like an epic adventure. As it was for those boarding Noah's ark, we distinctly felt that God was intervening in Allie and Reid's lives. He was lifting them, as it were, through adoption, from one setting to quite another for reasons they could not understand.

Thirdly, 2 BY 2 is a Biblical reference to the way Jesus sent out his disciples. Never alone, always in pairs, they were sent to spread the good news. It continues to comfort me to know we are not alone either in whatever task he calls us to do.

So, the L'Arche concept resonates on many levels. Is there one near you? Has anyone had personal experience with L'Arche?

"After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and send them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go." Luke 10:1-3

"...they went into the ark to Noah by twos, male and female, as God had commanded Noah. Genesis 7:8-10

"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth." Matthew 5:4-6

photo credit: www.larche.org; www.anholt.co.uk

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