Jean Vanier, the founder of l’Arche homes for mentally and physically disabled adults, writes a tender and powerful book, “Becoming Human.” In his chapter on “The Path to Freedom”, he writes about companionship and the need for accompaniment along the journey to freedom. He writes:
An accompanier is someone who can stand beside us on the road to freedom, someone who loves us and understands our life. An accompanier can be… a friend – anyone who can put a name on our inner pain and feelings. Accompaniers may be… those who have experience in untying the knots that block us in our development. They may be… people who have grown in the way of God, who seek to help us understand each other’s humanity and needs, and who help us recognize God’s call to communion, inner liberation, and a greater love of self.
Accompaniment is necessary at every stage of our lives, but particularly in moments of crisis when we feel lost, engulfed in grief or in feelings of inadequacy. The accompanier is there to give support, to reassure, to confirm, and to open new doors. The accompanier is not there to judge us to to tell us what to do, but to reveal what is most beautiful and valuable in us, as well as to point towards the meaning of our inner pain. In this way, an accompanier helps us advance to greater freedom by helping us to be reconciled with our past and to accept ourselves as we are, with our gifts and limitations…
The word “accompaniment,” like the word “companion,” comes from the Latin word “cum pane,” which mean “with bread.” It implies sharing together, eating together, nourishing together, walking together. The one who accompanies is like a midwife, helping us to come to life, to live more fully. But the accompanier receives life also, and as people open up to each other, a communion of hearts develops between them. They do not clutch on to each other but give life to one another and call each other to greater freedom…
Accompaniment is at the heart of community life in l’Ache, but it is at the heart of all human growth. We human beings need to walk together, encouraging each other to continue the journey of growth…
It is with great insight that Vanier recognizes the role of companionship in the process of “becoming human.” And when he writes, “an accompanier is someone who can stand beside us on the road to freedom,” it resonates with the word Jesus’ used to describe His Holy Spirit in John 16:
Unless I go away, the “Counsellor” will not come to you… He is the Spirit of truth – and He guides you into all truth.
That word translated “counsellor” in the NIV, or “comforter” in the KJV, is the word “para-kletos” – one who calls you to His side. In effect, Jesus’ Holy Spirit is our “companion” – just like Jesus who accompanies us “with bread” and friendship.
Therefore those who would follow Jesus will find themselves to be companions with others along the way. Grace to you on the journey to freedom.
For more, see “Friendship.”