Tuesday, October 11, 2011

october synchroblog: down we go

Each month we get a chance to together on a single chosen topic. It's Synchroblog Time! Here's the Wordpress blog.

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
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...
"they know my name but they don't know 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:


  1. It's interesting to know that you have done more with music and ministry since you left pastoral staff.

    I think that is often a good indication of downward mobility. When we leave the stage, we enter God's arena.

  2. Hi Jeremy, thanks for visiting... ummm... I was trying to say I did far more music and design when I served on pastoral staff than I've done since, when I'd anticipated exactly the opposite. But I do need to take to heart your comment about leaving the stage (how I loved the public position, really I did!) and entering God's arena... peace!

  3. Leah - This is a very powerful and moving post. I appreciate your transparency and your willingness to reveal some of your pain. I love that you ended with "I need to learn to tell my story" as I believe that we find healing, restoration, transformation and redemption in telling our own stories and in hearing other people's stories.

    May you be blessed with people who will listen.

  4. Leah, I can't lie, my eyes welled up with tears as I read this and am still shedding a few as I type this! It's because I feel I could've typed 90% of your post...what I've been living too!
    You wrote:
    "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..."
    It is painful to hear these things because it just means others won't receive our gifts. And, I think most of the time they are excuses. You may have read Kathy's book, but I think that is the very thing she dealt with too at the bigger church she once served. When she started to/wanted to preach, the leaders gave her the excuse of, "But, we're just not ready for it yet. It's not the right time." :-( Many gifts, many callings waiting around for the right time. I'm praying yours would come soon. God bless you, Leah.

  5. "other Leah"--thanks for visiting! Sadly or maybe providentially, I could say those same (easy?) words to myself or to someone else and in fact, they've been my ongoing recital to myself for quite some time. In some ways this post unfairly lacks other details and specifics, since many other factors have come into play with my situation and since I'm reluctant to reveal more publicly. Once it's out there in cyberspace it can't be retrieved even I delete the words, so possibly I shouldn't have written anything.

  6. "the other Leah" :-)
    for some reason Kairos time never seems to come EARLY enough! ;-) ha! I had to admit, I can get a little grumpy at words like time, patience, journey, etc. But, God gently shows me!
    Thanks for the encouragement, Leah!


thanks for visiting—peace and hope to all of us!