I'm yearning for the dignity of participating in life to an extent related to my abilities and I'm longing for the redemption of love...
On to this month's topic with introductory ideas from the page and site:
Independence. Success. Upward Mobility. Security. Comfort. In subtle and direct ways, many of have been sent a message by the world (and sometimes by the faith systems we have been part of) that life is about moving up–away from pain and suffering and toward comfort, stability, and put-togetherness. This kind of living is much different than the kind of life Jesus calls us to in the gospels. ... Jesus consistently modeled going down... into the low and messy places of people’s experiences–intersecting with the lepers, the lonely, the outcasts, the marginalized. He calls us to a life of humility, love, and interdependence. ... Where do you see Jesus calling you downward? What does it mean to you? How is your faith being stretched and challenged on the journey down? ... Are there paradoxes to be explored?"Are there paradoxes to be explored?" I'm living in a huge paradox as I look back at the past too many years and try to fathom how I got to where I am (in terms of my level of accomplishment) and cannot imagine how I *ended* up so lonely, without opportunities and without the sense of hope Jesus' death and resurrection demonstrates and Christianity calls us to. I wonder if my heart ever will mend. Pain, hurt, loneliness and praying for death. What is hard? Almost everything, yet how many times have I told myself and anyone who'd listen for a moment that in spite of everything, in every area of endeavor I've accomplished far more than ever I'd imagined I would?
Most often I type my posts in TextEdit, which sometimes auto-corrects in embarrassing ways, sometimes in interesting ways. I thought I was typing are there paradoxes to be explored, but likely got at least one letter wrong and it changed to paradises to be explored! Given that the biblical paradise is here, now, and earthbound, I'm wishing and hoping that was a sign of the future, esp as I work through a blog for this year's Blog Action Day, with Food as the topic!
I did go "into the low and messy places of people's experiences" with trips to the plasma center, hanging at the day labor place (okay, only 2 or 3 days there, not only was it cold winter and I had to be there by 6 a.m. they had almost nothing for women), figuring out the food distribution schedule at all the charities and a long string of other fun, enlightening, not-fun and sometimes denigrating activities that I'm still here to remember. As part of an intentional plan, I'd start worshiping and hangin' out some at a local church where I'd read the bulletin and the newsletter to find ways new to me and proven by me that I could serve and contribute, and almost constantly got comments like,"it would be better if you didn't; we can't let you; someone else is going to do that; we're not going to do that; you don't want to..."
When simpler, less complex, people remind me, "God laughs at our plans," I can tell you some downward movement was good for me. For example, though I hadn't always had good jobs, I'd never had a crummy job. But God calls us to live out our baptism in community, and no, contrary to what assumptions a few folks have made, I haven't waltzed or jogged into one local church after another and announced my background, interests, qualifications and immediately started volunteering to do everything. I've taken it slow and easy, usually trying to connect with groups and activities that might interest me and where I know I could contribute. It's not at all that I need people to be my cheerleaders; it's that doing any of the activities I feel called to do require an invitation or at least permission. Even if I were someone who enjoyed playing the piano for recreation, fun and pleasure, with the years I've spent practicing, the teachers I've had, the repertoire I've learned and my sheer joy at performing for an audience, how can it be vain and idle to want to do so again? I'd love to teach art again... teach and preach again. Is it so impossible to allow and encourage me to design a few Sunday bulletin covers? I did more music and more design when I was on pastoral staff than I've done since!
Recently I've watched Amanda Knox come "home" to Seattle. She'd gone to Italy as an exchange student where instead of doing much school she was tried and convicted of a crime, incarcerated for four years and then exonerated on appeal. On the one hand I've been amazed at the amount of human support she's received, but on the other hand, no one can live alone, no one can survive without community to hold them up, to be a mirror (distorted or not) to help show them who they are... This is a military town and we frequently see homecomings and farewells as part of the news and in all this I get the message we're supposed to be attached to other people, to love them, to miss them, to be excited about seeing them again. Part of being human is to have people in your lives who are attached to and love you, who think of you and miss you when you're apart, who long to see you again and who are excited about reuniting with you whenever that happens. At almost every graduation, ordination and related event speeches thank those who've journeyed alongside the graduate, the ordinand or the politician, explaining the success, achievement, accomplishment isn't theirs along; it's shared and it's been possible because it's not been solo and solitary. Everyone has rough patches, many if not most of which fade into near-oblivion when things start improving. Downward mobility?
As scripture reveals, as the history of the people of God in every time and place demonstrate, and as this month's intro insists, God "..calls us to a life of humility, love, and interdependence." No one can be themselves without the mirror of a faithful, loving community that's not threatened, not threatening and that's unafraid to tell the truth. God calls us to live out our baptism in community and in the world; our lives begin and keep returning to the assembly gathered around Word and Sacrament. Interdependence. Jesus asked the guy by the Bethsaida pool, "Do you want to be healed?" And the guy replied, "There is no one to pick me up and put me in the pool after the angel stirs the waters." My situation exactly, and the lack of community literally has been dehumanizing. Another paradox that's both gift and not-gift is that most likely no one perceives me as someone whose life is in tatters and splinters. Of course, if someone was close enough to me, spent time enough with me and heard enough from me...!
To conclude I need again to quote from Robin and Linda Williams' "Don't Let me Come Home a Stranger":
When the ties no longer bind. Lord save me from this darkest fear"they know my name but they don't know me...
Don't let me come home a stranger
I couldn't stand to be a stranger
In this place so far from home, they know my name but they don't know me
They hear my voice, they see my face; but they can lay no claim on me...
What does this feel like? What I imagine a cat or dog abandoned at the animal shelter and expecting a death sentence feels.
...I'm longing for the redemption of love... and I need to learn to tell my story. Amen? Amen!
Other October synchroblog participants:
- Alan Knox – How Low Can You Go
- Jeremy Myers – Seeking The Next Demotion
- Glenn Hager – Pretty People
- David Derbershire – Reaching The Inner City
- Tammy Carter – Flight Plan
- Leah Randall – Jacked Up
- Leah Randall (her other voice) – How Low Can We Go
- Liz Dyer – Beautiful Mess
- Maria Anderson – Down
- Christine Sine – There Is No Failure In The Kingdom of God
- Leah Sophia – Down We Go
- Hugh Hollowell – Downward
- Kathy Escobar – We May Look Like Losers – Redux
- Anthony Ehrhardt – Slumming It For Jesus
- Sonja Andrews – Diversion and Distraction
- Marta Layton – Down The Up Staircase
- Wendy McCaig – A Material Girl