Mystic or Bust

“The Christian of the future will either be a mystic, one who has experienced something, or she will cease to be anything at all.” –Karl Rahner

Morality, ritual, and blind belief: contemporary Christianity is known for these. If you’re Christian, you adhere to certain moral standards (although these vary vastly between denominations and individuals); you go to church, and you “believe in Jesus Christ,” whatever that means. As best as I can tell, this is how Christianity is perceived by popular culture. For the most part, this is how Christianity is experienced by Christians.

Dig deep enough, however, and I suspect you’d find that many Christians have “experienced something.” For that matter, people of other faiths have, too, and those who calls themselves “spiritual but not religious.” As have artists, nature-lovers, scientists, community organizers, and anyone who volunteers their time to help others. You might call the “something” God or art or nature or love or truth, but regardless, you experience a mysterious happening that brings you alive and gives life meaning. You glimpse a source beyond the scope of human consciousness. You know a beauty that vibrates in your very cells. You sense significance that encompasses even tragedy, even rampant injustice, even death. (more…)

For Behold

As light as a feather, free as a bird.

“Fear not, for behold: I bring you glad tidings of great joy.” I’ve listened to these words, sung them, shouted them from a church basement, and read them hundreds of times. They are the great refrain of Christmas. This year they strike me differently, though, because this year I am afraid.

I’m afraid because my mother’s no longer here, which is just sad on most days but then sometimes feels like the ground under me has heaved and is no longer trustworthy. I’m afraid because, walking to work last week in below-zero temperatures, I passed through a happy flock of robins—the climate is changing, what used to be predictable is no longer, and we’ve elected a government that will likely aggravate the problem. (more…)

Tikkun Olam

circledancepicOver the past decade, my experience of church as a family of faith located in one community, one building, and one denomination, has shattered. My close association with a small urban United Methodist congregation for almost 25 years gave me a clear sense of identity and belonging. The rituals were familiar. The congregation was my gravitational center, the sun to my orbiting earth.

Contemplative prayer and my strong desire for silence have drawn me out of orbit, perhaps temporarily, perhaps not, and I’ve been grieving the loss. On a personal level church feels broken, and I’m painfully aware of the larger Church’s rapid decline. What’s happening to this institution I love?

Oddly enough, the loss has brought to mind the Jewish creation myth: At the beginning of time God’s presence filled the universe. (more…)

In Praise of TransParency

Gwyn’s frolicking in the neighborhood splash pad with a kindergarten buddy and a new friend, all three wearing pigtails and an obnoxious amount of pink. I sit on the bench with their mothers chatting about teachers which for some reason requires my offhand explanation, “Gwyn has two moms.” My new acquaintance nods. “Chrissy is transgender,” she shares, nodding toward her five-year-old who is now being towed around on a noodle. The conversation careens forward.

What?!

Later, we’ve patted the girls dry and they’re out piling playground sand over their legs. We mothers occupy yet another bench. Because I’ve never known an out transgendered preschooler, I ask, “What’s Chrissy’s story?” And then this extraordinary mother tells me how her little boy always loved girlish things, how all the ECFE mothers wondered about his identity, and then one day when he was four he climbed into her lap and asked, “Mommy, why did God make a mistake?”

God didn’t make a mistake, Chrissy’s mother insisted. The next day she took him to Target to buy a new set of clothes. Chrissy danced through the racks announcing to strangers, “I get to buy dresses! I get to wear skirts!” Chrissy goes to kindergarten next year and already her mother has done a presentation on gender inclusivity for the elementary faculty. Chrissy will enter school as a girl.

I am awed, humbled, and suddenly, fiercely, in love with this mother-daughter pair—because this child knows herself, because her mother listens to her and accepts her, because they’re both flexible enough to revise their ideas about their identities, because they’re fearlessly honest as they enter the ever-widening circles of childhood… I love this mother’s transparency. I love the possibilities for Chrissy’s life in spite of the many hardships I’m sure she’ll endure. I love that Chrissy will know her mother’s love regardless of what else happens.

Who knows why our bodies are the way they are, fleshy and fit, broken and breaking out, male and female and the spectrum between? Who understands the indomitable nature of our souls? Creation unfurls immeasurable variety, and all of it can be transparent to this unexpected, revising love.

–Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew

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A friend of mine recommended this amazing blog, Transparenthood, in case you’d like to learn more.

Just in case anyone wants to sign up at the eleventh hour, there are still two spaces left in my retreat from June 15-19, 2015:  Alone Together:  Write That Book at the Madeline Island School of the Arts.

And if you’d like to explore revision within your writing, pencil in September 12-16, 2016, for a retreat at the Madeline Island School of the Arts.  More to come!