12/28/19

 

Where i am — at the end of a several days’ binge of media coma

Who God is — the Creator, Sustainer of life

 

Father, You who are without gender, without the limitations of the dimensions within which I live, I want to know Your ways.  Jesus invited me into Your fellowship and I humbly accept His invitation. Please, do what You need to do to make my heart and mind capable of listening and understanding. I realize I could live the rest of the time allotted to me here chasing emptiness. I’m sorry for the years I’ve already spent in that pursuit.  From this point forward, I want to live in reality, in the kingdom of heaven that Jesus said is here. 

 

I recognize that I don’t even know what I’m asking.  Jesus walked in faith and in sacrifice and suffering.  But what He had, what He saw, was real…more real than what I see surrounding me now.  I want that reality.  

He stood on the corner, waiting for the walk signal. I sat in my car, idling across the intersection. He studied his phone; I studied him.  He wore a leather jacket, the back highlighted with upside-down crosses. He was tall, skinny, his dirty blond hair roguishly styled with complicated shaved sides and a topknot. He stood outside the acute care facility; did he work there? Was he visiting a relative? 

My red light changed to a green arrow, and I drove past him. Perhaps late 20’s, not as young as he first appeared, his stubbled face showed both wariness and weariness. Still, there was defiance in his stance, which I admired. 

 

It surprised me, my admiration.  Earlier in my life, I would’ve judged him for the “satanic” symbols on his jacket (although he could really be a  fan of St. Peter), for his earring, his haircut, his aggressive posture.  I may have feared him, or piously prayed for him. But I wouldn’t have seen past his appearance. I wouldn’t have seen a young man with grit, with a determination not to be pigeon-holed.

 

These days, I appreciate those younglings who have the energy to care. Those who rally to protest, who rage against injustice.  I appreciate those who look within, finding a desire for something deeper, beyond entertainment. Those who still search, even when they fear there is nothing to find. These are the courageous ones, the ones who may feel bitter over the betrayal of a world who promised and did not fulfill.  The ones who are discouraged and anxious but still keep moving.

 

I am 60 this year, a disregarded boomer, I suppose.  We did some good, but not enough. My generation rose against our elders, condemning their disregard of the planet.  But clearer skies and cleaner highways mean little in the wake of global climate change. We marched for the civil rights of some people and against others, keeping “traditional values” as a cover for our privilege.  We were generous to some, but held as the bottom line our own comfort.

 

If I could have the last 30 years back, what would I change?  If I get another 30, how do I want to spend it? I think the answers to both questions include less fear and more risk. My default state is sloth, conflict avoidance and dissociation. Occasional entertainment can be restorative, but I hope there is never a final tally of all the hours I’ve chosen to spend staring at a screen or book instead of facing myself.

 

My daughter says, “Living in awareness is like being in therapy 24/7.”  A good therapist helps you connect with yourself. A great therapist helps you find the courage to face those things you’d rather not see.  And the best therapist shows you that in acceptance and love for all you are, you can find acceptance and love for all others are as well.  

 

God has been my own best therapist, often using others’ voices to teach me.  Today, God used a twenty-something on a street corner to remind me that the music of life lies not in homogeneity but in celebrating the uniqueness of every voice.  

 

Jesus gives His followers the authority to bless in His name. And so I bless you, young man, to find all you seek, to receive comfort for what troubles you and to continue to stand in strength. Thank you.

God and Personal Pronouns

 

I believe God is Spirit, both without gender and encompassing the fullness of male and female in whose image we were created.  I believe Jesus had no choice but to refer to God as Father in a patriarchal society that valued the male as authority over the female.  Because my formative years referred to this being of the Trinity as Father God, and perhaps because as a woman, it fits more in line with my concept of “other,” I will often refer to “Him” with this language.  It is the image in my mind, where I am today. I fully respect the choice others make to refer to Mother God, to embrace the feminine aspect of God’s character. I also recognize the importance of challenging the patriarchy and being mindful of the damage caused by the exclusion of the feminine.  I hope someday to be able to make this transition in my own thinking and in my writing.  

 

 

Looking Behind to Move Forward

 

Sankofa is an African word symbolized by a bird looking backwards with its feet facing forward. In its beak, it carries a precious egg (symbolizing the future.) The word literally translates: san – to return; ko – to go; fa – to fetch. The underlying concept promotes the importance of looking behind in order to move forward. Sankofa is often associated with the proverb, “Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi,” which translates as: “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.”

As Americans, it feels like we have forgotten quite a bit lately — kindness, respectful discourse, empathy, compassion, a sense of unity, the ability to listen to those whose opinions differ from our own.

On a personal level, as I look back over an eventful sixty years, it is clear that my history does not start with my own birth. The generations before me have left a legacy of stories. Some of those stories are shameful, some are sweet, some are heart-breaking. When telling family stories, there is always a temptation to gloss over the shameful bits in favor of the more heroic (overcoming adversity during the Great Depression) or heartwarming (Grandma’s 90th birthday party). 

History is full of triumphant tales told by the victors. But I think the more inspirational stories are found in the lives of the forgotten, the disregarded. The precious eggs of our future are found in our past. What can we learn from our ancestors’ suffering or from their misguided ambitions?  What has been forgotten that we need to remember now? While our Creative Memories scrapbooks and scribbled journals may not seem to carry the weight of civilization preserved under the patient care of monastic scribes, these keepers of our histories are our own form of illuminated manuscripts. Our stories invite others to join in our experience of humanity. Our stories remind us that although people do not reach perfection, everyone should be given the opportunity to learn and grow.  

In the following pages, what began as simple writing exercises became something more, sometimes doubling as personal therapy, veering into social commentary, often emerging into thought-provoking questions. This is my journey. If it helps you reflect on your own, I bless your sankofa.