Taizé Pt. III: To Live is to Risk (3 minute read)
Taizé Pt. III: To Live is to Risk
On Sunday as people began to leave, I became struck with grief. I didn’t want them to leave. They were all so beautiful, Shirley and Martin and the others. I was sitting on the ground watching them go when Elisabeth, a 19-year-old German, asked me where I was headed after Taizé (a rumor had been going around that I wanted to buy a car and drive to Mongolia).
"The spirit of risk was not altered by Brother Roger's brutal death. It forms an open doorway, inviting other risk-takers inside, and they show up in all kinds."
As we talked, I told Elisabeth that I didn’t think I was the same person I was when I began this trip almost three months ago. I told her that I felt like I was on my own "pilgrimage of trust," and that I think the fundamental question I’ve been asking is, “can humans be trusted?" "And even if they cannot be, then is it better to be harmed by the one than to live in fear of the other ninety nine?" "And is overcoming this fear necessary to love our neighbor as ourselves— to be reconciled to all and not just some of humanity?"
When I came to Taizé, something I noticed was the lack of security in place. Other than for a brief time after the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, they’ve never had any. No gates at the entrance, no metal detectors, no men walking around with earphones and concealed carries. The only locks are on the bathroom stalls. When I asked if I could come, the only information they wanted was a name, address, age, date of arrival and departure.
When as a young adult he left the safety of his home, placing himself in the path of danger to serve Jews and German prisoners of war, Brother Roger must have understood the risks demanded by reconciliation. It's ironic that he survived his perilous war time operations only to have his windpipe severed by a schizophrenic pilgrim in 2005, as an elderly man no doubt expecting a quiet, peaceful passing. The Brothers quickly carried him out, and when they realized it was hopeless, they sang to him while he passed away.
“I wonder if choosing to love others and reconcile, to not close ourselves off, requires accepting our death. It may—like brother Roger—be a physical death, or a professional death, or a financial death, or a death to approval from others. But maybe love is worth it."
The spirit of risk was not altered by Brother Roger's brutal death. It forms an open doorway, inviting other risk-takers inside, and they show up in all kinds. Those who come here today seem to share Brother Roger’s longing to be reconciled—not just to some humans but to all humans.
“I’m asking those questions, too,” Elisabeth said. “I volunteered at a hospital this past winter. It was especially bad. Homeless people would come in with frostbite. Because they came in they had to be treated, but because they couldn’t pay they didn’t get the best treatment. So they were far more likely to get an amputation,” she said, making a cutting motion towards the bottom of her leg. “I want to do something to help, but I don’t know what. I don’t know how that translates into a job, if it’s worth it, and if I can make it in the real world” she said. “I’m thinking of becoming a nurse and volunteering in a third world country.”
We sat there for a minute in silence. I suggested that while it’s easier said than done, I believe that if she focuses on the values she wants to live by first, that the right job will open up. Then I added, “I wonder if choosing to love others and reconcile, to not close ourselves off, requires accepting our death. It may—like brother Roger— be a physical death, or a professional death, or a financial death, or a death to receiving approval from others. But maybe love is worth it. Maybe the reason Jesus walked on earth was to show that a life of love is a life worth living. And we can have hope that love will rise up from the other side of death.”
Elisabeth scrunched her eyebrows. She stared at the cement floor. I worried that I’d made her angry. I don’t talk to 19-year-olds very often.
Then she looked back at me. “I would love it if that were true,” she said, as if this might have been the first time anyone had ever told her about Jesus, as if she never knew this to be at the core of his call. “It’s so beautiful.”
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