Vulnerability + growing up

Mont Aigoual, Les Cévennes, France, 1997

An unforgettable day back in 1997 with my good friend Frère Henri in the Cevennes (S. France, where we were staying for hiking and cycling in the area) on top of Mont Aigoual after a long hike to the top. During the climb he'd put me in front to lead the way for the first time in our 7 years of summer hiking since my Noviciate where he was the Assistant Novice Master. Sounds banal but this gesture had a profound effect on me during the climb and I got very emotional. Someone was putting their trust in me in a way that no one else had done before. On top of this the views around me were so beautiful. A couple of times in the climb I had to stop and sit down as a wave of emotion broke over me.

One such break, with Mont Aigoual itself in the distance.

Then when we arrived at the top I could have sat there for hours with the view you can see in the photo below. I feel now that it was a key experience for me in the process of growing up. I was 28 going on 16 and despite 6 years of teaching I was someone who felt more comfortable in the company of people older than myself (I still do). I was happier following the guidance of others, following older brother/father figures with whom I felt safe and loved. But this day, through my dear friend God was now calling me to become a leader, a guide, an older brother-type figure for others… As I had written in a poem during my 6th form days I did not want to "let go" of that safety that comes from being able to depend on and look up to another. God was gentle in his prompting, however, and gradually over the years I have taken on more and more responsibility and allowed myself to become that kind of person for others. But I think it will always be a struggle for me.

I have, for example, organised and lead trips to Africa (4 times), World Youth Days in Germany and Spain and numerous De La Mennais Brothers youth gatherings in Brittany. During this time I have learned to put my trust in someone I cannot see, the God who is Father and Son/Brother.
Ultimately, I am still that insecure 16 year old longing for a father with whom I would feel safe and loved. But I've embraced this vulnerability, my inner child, asking God in his love to work through me so that through my weakness his love may be shared with others, so that in my weakness I may be strong in his love.

As is said in the spoken intro to the wonderful '80s song by Liverpool band The Icicle Works "Birds Fly (Whisper To A Scream)"…

"Some things take forever, But with the building bricks of trust and love, Mountains can be moved."

And in the chorus…

"We are, we are, we are but your children,
Finding our way around indecision.
We are, we are, we are ever helpless,
Take us forever, a whisper to a scream."

Take me forever, Lord.

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