Not literally. No I didn't find him sitting on the floor in a library somewhere and literally stumble over him when I turned the corner and there he was.
I don't know how, but somehow in my quest for genuine community I came across his name. But in the pre-Amazon.com world of South Georgia, I could never find his books. He was not as popular as James Michener in the secular bookstore or Frank Peretti (he's been around a long time) in the Christian bookstore. Go figure. Why was there no following for a Catholic guy who founded communities for mentally-challenged people in South Georgia?
So the very first time I went to Kenya in 1991, I stumbled into the used bookstore in Yaya Centre hungry for something to read to divert my mind from my teaching schedule. And there on the shelf, tattered, dog-eared, underlined and ugly green was Jean Vanier's Community and Growth. Trembling in disbelief, I took it from the paperback-packed shelf and thumbed through it. My first thought was, "who in Nairobi would read this?" So for some price in Kenya Shillings, I purchased it and took it back to Rick and Cheri's apartment, and sitting in their verdant red-soiled garden began to devour it.
And in this book was a level of spirituality and reality that I had not encountered before. At least in print. So this morning as I was perusing Deb and Alan Hirsch's blog and I saw this quote, I thought I need to share this with a lot of folks... include them in my journey and my discovery!
When I read this I had this great urge to run and find my copy and begin reading it all over again! But I'm in Georgia for Christmas and (hopefully) its old worn and raggedy self is somewhere on my shelves in Pensacola, Florida. I'll just have to wait.“It seems to me more and more that growth in the Holy Spirit brings us from a state of dreaming-and often illusion-to the stage of realism. Each of us has our own dreams and projects, which prevent us from seeing ourselves clearly and accepting ourselves and others as we are. Dreams throw up a strong barriers. They hide the psychological, human and spiritual poverty which we find hard to bear in ourselves. And sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between the dream-aspiration that motivates and inspires our lives and the dream-barriers which are flight and illusion.The work of Jesus and his Holy Spirit is to touch us more deeply than do dreams. When we discover that God lives in us and carries us, our dreams can disappear without leaving us depressed. We are held by the gift of faith and hope, that fine thread which binds us to God.” -- John Vanier, (Community and Growth, page 74.)
And now I discover that Jean Vanier is still alive! Still living! I assumed that he was dead years ago, but nope, he's living in a L'Arche community in France and has recently published a new book with Stanley Hauerwas entitled Living Gently in a Violent World.
Okay, so chances of me finding it in the used bookstore in Yaya Centre are slim (since I'm not there and it's brand new!), I'll just have to look in my stocking hanging by the fireplace.