Friday, September 28, 2007

You can stand under our umbrella... ella... ella…

I’ve never felt the rain like I have in New York City…. metaphorically and physically – but is there really a difference between the two?

Before moving to NY this “J” type personality according to Myers-Briggs, was prepared for inclement weather…I had a regular umbrella for days I knew it would rain and a mini (much cuter) umbrella to keep with me at all times on the slim chance the Gods got misty-eyed without notifying But then it started raining one morning and I got soaked walking the ten blocks between my room, subway stop and work…. with my large umbrella. I tried everything, holding it high in the air, using it like a shield against wind/rain…. none of them worked, I always arrived damp and with frizzy hair. Then one day walking (in the rain) with my friend I discovered the reason…here’s our conversation:

“I hate the rain! I always end up soaked!” ~ me
“Well, why are you using such a small umbrella?” ~ my friend
“What are you talking about? This is my big umbrella” ~me
“No, that’s a mini-umbrella, mine is full size” ~my DRY friend
Naturally proving I’m right with all the sass a soaked diva could muster I whipped out my back-up mini-umbrella proving to my friend that…

the umbrellas were the same size.

As the water level on my pants rose so did my emotional and spiritual awareness. Not only my pants but also my spirit had been soaked, relying on a two sizes too small umbrella or support network. As Eric mentioned in an earlier post, it’s hard to move into a new community. Taking on a new job, school and/or family role can stir up storms of fear, self-consciousness and loneliness in us and without a support network of open and adequate umbrellas we might start to believe that these storms define who we are.

Now, I’d love to tell you I came to this conclusion within my faith community but in reality it was on the street in Harlem and through (of all things) Rihanna’s “Umbrella” song. I know, the womanist in me is outraged at the ways we objectify or stand/sing back when others objectify us, and who among us really believes the song is about umbrellas (especially after the music video)…but suspend all that for me if you can (we progressives do this with the Bible all the time, look past the literal meaning and all that others have told us it’s about) and imagine what our faith community would look like if we all supported each other providing shelter from the storms in our lives. How would our care for one another affect our global climate? How would/will we define ourselves as individuals and a community if not by our storms?

To do this I think we need to do a couple things…and I’m sure you can come up with others. We need to be aware of the storms in our community members lives and have the self-awareness to know when we can hold an umbrella for two people (or more) and when it’s time for someone else to step in and offer them shelter. And we need to find the humility within to ask for help when our umbrella alone seems inadequate. Personally I’ve learned from the stormy period of my life (and I’m sure there will be others to come) and invested in a full-size (equally cute might I add) umbrella that mirrors the support network I’m welcoming into my life…many of whom are OnFire people who I’ve experienced allowing me the option to “stand under their umbrella…ellla…ella…” I hope you find the same in our community.

“You’re a part of my entity”

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Yearning for God

So as a third year seminarian, I would hope that I have learned a few things while in training for ministry. I know how to parse a Greek verb, why homoiousious is heresy, the meaning of silly terms like communicatio idiomatum and perichoresis... why St. Augustine is both a misogynist and amazingly liberating at the same time, how many angel can dance on the head of a pin - any why it does (or not) matter... and other abstruse thoughts.
And I've learned a few other important things. Double espressos at 10:30 at night don't actually make for a better paper, just a long long night of circular thoughts. Deadlines matter, but funerals and surgical emergencies ARE more important. People need encouragement. Tea really does make most problems a little bit more bearable, especially if it is made by a good friend and accompanied by a shoulder to cry on. Friends are the stuff that gets us through the day. Chocolate is good medicine. Six hours of sleep at night is imperative, anything less inevitably results in sickness.
But more interesting than these relatively easy lessons are the more difficult ones. And recently, it seems that God has been interested in teaching me some of the rather complicated lessons.

First: Life is messy, and that is not a bad thing. It is complicated to live in community, to care about people and to attempt to both respect their boundaries and participate in their lives. The messiness is not a problem, necessarily, but it does preclude easy answers or treating people as objects or stereotypes, for when we truly attempt to connect with one another, we have to expect we will disagree on things that matter, people will act in unexpected ways, and will make you both laugh and cry at the most unexpected moments.

Second: God is actually more mysterious than we can even begin to imagine. Just when I think I have a vague clue about how God is relating in my life, or where I am headed, God reminds me that any image of God is inherently heresy- for God is greater than our language, our imagination, even our sight. And yet, God is also so very present in the little kids in church who smile and giggle. God is abundant in the cool breezes of cool days at the end of summer.

Third: tensions, chaos and uncertainty are the stuff of life. Don't just bear them, but learn to enjoy them if possible. For example - Jesus walked on water, but then invited Peter to do the same (or you could argue Peter asked him to invite him... but that's another discussion)... and Peter DID - stepped out of the boat, unsure if he would actually succeed or not. And it was only as he kept his eyes upon Jesus that he stayed up. When he looked away, he fell down. Now I'm not going to say anything stupid here about just focus upon Jesus and everything will work out, but I would say that in the midst of the storm and the water, Peter did not need a water tight boat or a bridge, but he did need faith.
And this summer, I've spent a good bit of the time feeling like Peter, sinking into the water, surrounded by storm, Called out into the chaos and then apparently abandoned by Jesus. But the thing is, I neither drowned nor ended up back in the boat. I'm still out on the water, and the storm is still sending down lightening and thunder. but I'm not dead yet! and I'm no longer sinking. And do you know what the difference is? the only difference is that I am not alone. The Spirit is sustaining us out in the midst of the water and storm - and guiding me to see the goal, the hope and the focus upon Jesus. But it is not easy.

That is the last lesson: There are no worthwhile easy answers. Generally, the easy answers don't actually solve anything. And a single step solution just avoids part of the true complexity of a problem. But that things are complex or difficult does not mean that we should not participate in the solution. And that is why I can work at a homeless shelter, knowing that thousands of people will never find us. Thousands will freeze next winter because we are not big enough; and that is NOT OK. but we do our small part. And you do yours, and the Holy Spirit is doing her big important part, and in the end, one tiny solution at a time, the Kin-dom of God is coming. One reconciled relationship at a time, we are becoming the body of Christ.

So, it is going to be messy, mysterious, uncertain and complex, but we walk in the Holy Spirit, and we walk together.

+ Audrey