Resurrection

It’s gray and misty outside today. Sometimes rain feels fresh and cleansing but this is the cold, sleety, spitting kind. I’m at a coffee shop but I want to be at home under a big heavy blanket with my kids tucked in beside me. I want to sleep. One of my most beloved spiritual mothers lies unconscious in the hospital. Good Friday was yesterday, Easter tomorrow, and I feel the expansive silence of this day. It yawns into the damp corners of my home and my mind.

I’m remembering Easter Sunday in the church of my childhood. The dozens of lilies circling the stage and the way the pastor greeted our pastel-clad congregation, “He is Risen!” and we’d shout, “He is risen indeed!” A full orchestra led us in the hallelujah chorus, and the pews emptied as men and women crushed in upon the choir to join them for the four part harmony.

For those of us who struggle to find a faith home, to find our part in the choir, to make ourselves presentable, Easter is another lonely holiday. I miss the old certainties during this season more than any other time of the church year. I miss the easy joy, shouting the refrain, singing the triumphal hymns without a flood of questions about what the hell they even mean or how this is good news for the poor and oppressed in this here and now world. I miss the comfort of community where everyone mostly agrees on mostly everything – biblical interpretations, politics, parenting. Nobody thinks about these messy, complicated questions. Nobody wonders what Jesus was actually like, or what he would think of our celebrations. It’s a day of victorious shouts and scalloped potatoes, why ruin that with unanswerable questions?

But it comes with a cost, doesn’t it? The millstone of atonement theology – praying to thank Jesus for dying for my sins, apologizing that he had to, singing “it was my sin that held him there” while I imagine Jesus bloody and limp because I didn’t empty the dishwasher the first time my mom asked, because I shoved my brother, because I had a crush on a boy and daydreamed about being kissed.

It makes a lot of sense that so many of us who were whipped into church submission as 8-year-olds grow up to be the people who jeer “ALL lives matter”, who want to purge our nation of asylum seekers, who scream about bathroom bills. Jesus was, after all, only turned over for execution after the mobs, whipped to religious fervor by the men in power, screamed for his crucifixion.

It’s insidious the way we’ve retold the story of Jesus. He’s been weaponized, a tool for shaming children and adults alike into unquestioning submission. He’s been sanitized from a more aloof Shane Claiborne type into someone who would have been welcomed at a mega church on Sunday morning, someone charmingly edgy who has “a past” (nothing too scandalous), someone who has been carefully groomed to stay theologically “on message”.

We’re told the takeaway, the “good news”, is that we have hope now, now that he’s dead and raised to life. He conquered the grave so you can live forever! Don’t worry about what that means, they say. It’s a wonderful mystery, they say. Jesus is at the right hand of God the Father. Yes, his literal right hand. In heaven, where you’ll have a literal body/no, no body, it’s a place for the soul/we’ll get new bodies. We will/won’t work and learn and marry and have families/new families/we’ll be reunited with old loved ones and live happily every after. We won’t want relationships/won’t want new children/ won’t have sex/we’ll be satisfied in Christ. (ew) You will/won’t get to meet your dead baby/dog/grandma. You won’t want any of that because all you will want is God. There’s really no point in worrying about it. What you need to know is that you should be hell-bound, but thanks to Jesus/predestination/the sinner’s prayer you’re not, and God no longer hates your guts because he murdered his only son for you, to fix the problem of the evil he allowed/created, so just be grateful/trust the bible/don’t ruin Easter dinner with these questions, dammit.

And yet, here I am, 8 or 10 years into the questions and I’m coming back around on this story. On Jesus. On the gospel. I can finally see that Jesus’s cosmic-breaking-in was  for those of us on the margins, those of us that can’t find hope in the answers of the religious elite. Less Gospel Coalition heretic hunting, more college students hunger striking on behalf of their food insecure friends.

The hope of Jesus is the breaking through of the cosmic Christ. The end of the us vs them binary.  In Christ we learn to see the Divine in our sister, our neighbor, and our enemy as we do in ourselves. In Christ we learn to spend our privilege for those without it and to center their stories in our communities, working towards justice together.

I imagine Jesus shaking his head at us, not because we haven’t evangelized enough souls out of hell or because we are “sinful”, but because we’re so distracted by all our rules that we completely miss the work God is already doing in our midst.

“The spirit of the Lord is upon me,” he would say,

“She has called me to give hope to the poor. Yes, just the poor. You wealthy folks are going to have a mighty hard time understanding the kingdom of heaven.

“She has stirred in me a passion to free women and children trapped in the sex trade or in homes with abusive partners and fathers. Her spirit guides us to free the children and their parents held like animals in cages at your borders.

“She insists we ensure proper representation and fair trials for Black and Brown men incarcerated in your evil criminal ‘justice’ system.

“Our great healer waves the banner of healthcare for all, pointing out how ridiculous it is that a civilization advanced enough to develop life-saving medications and surgeries to heal the sick lacks the ethic to actually heal them without demanding payment.

“Most importantly, and hear me on this because y’all struggle: our Divine Mother calls for the centering of the stories of all who have been stepped on and used and tossed aside in your relentless pursuit of a bargain and a bottom line.

“I have come to proclaim a year of jubilee because you thick headed people need a hard reset. Forgive debts, turn over industry to the people, marry, care tenderly for the children and the aged, focus on the needs of the poorest among you.

“Then you will know the kingdom of heaven.”

The government was angry. The religious leaders were incensed. The crowd was full of fear and their imaginations could not see the imprint of the Divine in this vagabond.

So they murdered him.

Not quietly, but publicly. A warning to any others who would dare follow in his steps. I’m not sure what I believe about Jesus’ divinity or his knowledge about what was to come, but he certainly could have run away. He could have fled like his parents did 30 years before, living as refugees while the king had a price on his head. But no, not this time. He submitted to their anger, their fear, their evil. He hung on a cross, a bodily witness to the stone cold hearts of men.

His disciples hid.

The women waited.

And then the women (the women!) told the story, the story of the boy who lived.

I don’t know what the resurrection actually, literally was, and that has bothered me so much for so many years. But even so, I feel this story in my bones. I believe with my whole heart that evil, angry, powerful people do not win. Love abides. It flourishes in the weak, in the forgotten. Perhaps the Resurrection was both an infusion of hope in our desperate humanity and a tugging of the edges of our timeline, a cosmic bend away from our fear-fueled destruction.

A new life in the way of Love.

Resurrection.

macro photography of yellow flowers during sunset

Photo by Tim Eiden on Pexels.com

 

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Selah, child of light

For years I have said that miscarrying our tiny Selah was the beginning of the end of faith for me. In the days after that very worst day, family and friends reached out with words of comfort, with meals, with stories of their own loss. Tangible, vulnerable acts of kindness that made me feel less alone. But there were also family and friends and trusted mentors who felt it was important that I understand that no child is promised to heaven except those that God predestines. In fact, they said, it was prideful to claim an assurance of grace for my child – who was I to know the will of God? They said I should find comfort in God who is “in control”, who leads us into suffering for our sake, or for his glory, or to teach us to trust him. It felt like a threat. If he wants to create a child to die in your womb and then condemn that tiny soul to hell, who are you to question him? Maybe he did it precisely because you are the sort who would be brazen enough to call foul. 

The sentiment itself wasn’t shocking. I had always believed this theology, I had even offered those words to friends in their own suffering. But something changed in the sharpness of my grief. Ideas that had once given me comfort now failed because they made God look like a monster who delighted in inflicting suffering or creating and then murdering unborn children and destining their souls for hell, all in some bid to bring himself more glory.  Okay crazy nightmare hitler god. At least hitler was finite. This is the all knowing, all loving, all powerful God, and this is how he uses his power? This is goodness? This is love?

These were the first questions of my deconstruction out of reformed fundamentalism, made possible by the life and death of our dear first daughter. Deconstruction is, itself, a kind of death. An end. But as the years have passed I have begun to see her brief existence as more than just the tipping point out of a toxic faith. She was like a portal to the non-dualities of this universe. Through her I gained eyes to see the fear and oppression that was keeping me in line with this frightening theology. Through her I found the courage to imagine that, if there was a God, a Divine Being, a movement of Love in the universe, it would not, could not, delight in inflicting suffering on human beings or burning tiny fetuses eternally in hell.

Selah taught me how to wonder, how to fight against fear, how to sit with grief and heartache without pithy answers or submission to a dictator’s will. I don’t know if I ever would have found my way out of that toxic theology without her. She led me, with her short life, through all the rules and gates meant to protect God from our humanity. She showed me that God is not a king in a walled off fortress. Love cannot be contained.

I have gained momentum in running after her, following her small frame towards glimpses of the Divine in the wilderness beyond the gates, but it hasn’t been easy. The blinding flood lights and the hum of fluorescent bulbs that keep every doubt or shadowed thought at bay distorted my view of what laid beyond. The light of certainty illuminates all the carefully laid doctrinal walls between the desperate within and the desperate without. For so many years I was so sure that they were right, that God could only exist in this pure architectural wonder. I left timidly, with backwards steps, tripping my way down the front steps and across the grounds. I told myself that I just needed perspective, perhaps a new group or guide could show me how to find my way back in, back to God, back to the community I loved.  The further we ventured, the dimmer the light, the light I thought was God, became. I grew angry, then weary, then hopeless.

But then, at the edges of human answers, I stopped. It felt like the small soul that was tugging me out there was trying to turn my face, to finally look ahead rather than back at what was. By now the fortress was nothing but a dim glow on the horizon and my eyes were finally adjusting to the dark. It was so quiet. But then I turned and found the whole universe stretched out before me, before us, a resplendent tapestry of light and void. It pulsed with hope, with song, and I could finally see the shimmering movement of Love in and among all beings, across time. 

I fell into it, and it caught me, like a child safe in her mother’s arms.


Thank you, Selah-girl, for showing me the way.  For giving me the anger and the courage to escape the oppressive ‘certainties’ so I could experience the delight of true wonder and mystery and awe. Your name means “pause, reflect deeply” and is found at the end of many lines of psalmic poetry. It came to me in those vulnerable days curled up on the couch as you faded from my form, and at the time all I could reflect on was my helplessness and sorrow. I am so grateful for the journey we have been on from that place. Together we have lived into your name fully, always circling back, always with more questions. I never would have had the courage without you, my beloved girl. Thank you leading me home.

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An Imprinting of Love: How to Be Gentle With Your Kids and Yourself (at the Spiritual Parent)

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I was nine when we moved from our small New England town to the suburban sprawl of Colorado Springs. Everything was bigger there. The houses, the churches, the mountains, somehow even God was larger, more real, more present.

Christianity had been an important part of our family culture before, but now it took center stage. Our social lives oscillated  between attending a mega church (and all of the classes, groups, dinners and activities that came with it) and hanging out at the Focus On The Family complex which was conveniently just down the street.

My brothers and I spent countless Saturdays exploring in the Adventures In Odyssey wonderland while my parents steeped themselves in Dobson’s philosophy. His empire pumped out radio programs, magazines, and parenting books that explained how our “sin natures” caused us to misbehave and directed parents to set firm boundaries via physical punishment and authoritarian shaming to help children understand the dire consequences of their sins.

I’ve been trying to shake off the effects of this toxic approach for years…

Click here to read the rest of this post on the Spiritual Parent blog.

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let them lead us

We waited nearly an hour
fidgeting with phones
rehearsing answers
wearily at attention
to the future

While we inched forward
the children wasted no time organizing themselves
learning names and giggling games

I wondered what they thought of us
(probably nothing)
civically queuing to solve the BIG PROBLEMS
with one silent push of a button

For weeks I have been drilling into them
the importance of our vote
of RESISTANCE, PERSISTENCE, PROTEST and HOPE

But in the time it took us to reach our holy purpose
I watched these little humans
stranger neighbors
negotiate fierce fights with grace
even as their bodies vibrate with the intensity of their desire

They move like water,
like something more alive together than apart
a school of glittered fish, a flock of small, wiry birds
undulating
clashing, retreating, returning
compromising
improvising, really
the way to peace
and then breaking again and again
listening, rolling,
childish forms trusting the process
surrendered and sustained

Instead of battle lines,
a holy posture
of hope
inclusion
trust

Maybe
if we let them lead the way
we can learn it too

I am hopeful.

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If you’d like to listen to this poem, click on the image below.

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