Come celebrate with me….
I thought church was about God. And it is. But as much as it is about God and the holy, it is also a human institution. Even though my elders lived it, because I didn’t feel it, I didn’t understand that church also is about relationship and community.
Mostly, I started thinking if I can change my relationship with something as elemental as food – and what I eat several times a day – what else am I capable of?
Life impresses me. It has a way of putting us in the circumstances we most wanted to avoid. I finally realized I’m not supposed to run.
The most productive time finds me holding my sore heart with compassion, allowing my disappointment and the difference between what I had envisioned my life would be, and what it is at the moment, and sitting with that reality.
I pray for a messianic world in which cultures no longer demand that our bodies conform to their ideal—white, male, female, tall, thin, and so on. This is so far from current reality that I have made it a practice to imagine such a world. A Moses with Whoopi Goldberg’s skin color. An actor with Gandhi’s build in the role of Superman. Gender-nonconforming holy people, as is the case among Native Americans.
I managed to keep my grousing in check and surrender to the madness. I let the dishes go, and sat and played ‘Go fish’ with family and unexpected friends over. I wondered if in a year’s time, I’d be sitting alone in a too-quiet house wondering where everyone had gone – my youngest at college, my other two more fully on their own, and my husband perhaps working late or away. What then? The quiet might be deafening.
We moved on from room to room, and each time a guard appeared, monitoring us closely, often joined shortly by a second guard. One exhibit in particular featured a closet-sized room covered entirely of beeswax. Museum visitors were encouraged to stand in the center of the golden glow to get the full experience. One of my students stood in the middle, commented about the smell of the room and conjectured about the purpose of the exhibit. He gently brushed his fingertip against the wall.
A volunteer asked, “Whose birthday is it?” I will never forget the response. The women replied, “Is is everyone’s birthday. Most of these families don’t celebrate birthdays because of their personal situations.” I let that statement sink in for a moment and juxtaposed it with the reality that my daughter lives. She always has a birthday celebration.
I have been reading The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr. with my son Reese, and what I thought would be a great experience for him has proven to be an especially uplifting and bittersweet experience for me.
But I’ve learned in the past few years that my desire to make my situation ideal hurts instead of helps. Underneath the desire for “perfect” is a lack of acceptance for who I am. It’s a refusal to recognize I’m human and there are going to be times where I don’t feel I’m measuring up. That the whole focus on measuring up to some illusory self leads to deeper dissatisfaction, and pulls me further away from joy.