Wednesday, February 15, 2012

...a journey to belonging

Christina and Colleen came bearing gifts: roses and a Sunday newspaper.


Full communion in the church doesn't mean what it used to.

Even those who belong don't belong if they don't have the rights
and privileges of the others.

The list of non-belonging belongers is long.
If you're included in the list (which means you're excluded), you know it,
even though you've been assured that the belonging believers
have compassion for your plight.

Fortunately, you know from the scriptures and confessions
that you belong where it counts.

You options include turning the other cheek 
and assuring the belonging believers
that you have compassion for their plight.

Blessed are the poor in privilege,
for they belong to God.

Ann Weems

A visit to my parent’s house twenty-odd years ago remains vivid.  The weekend got off to a rocky start. Mother had invited a neighbor for tea and bragging rights. My life didn't flash before my eyes. Oh, no. It unfolded very slowly and in excruciating detail as told to that poor unsuspecting woman. I mercifully lapsed into a coma of mortification but roused when Mother ended with, "I don't know how Celeste does it all."
Silence would have been the better option but I erred on the side of wit. "Well, it certainly is a challenge." I turned toward the neighbor and continued, "You know how housework goes. You vacuum and then, six weeks later, you just have to do it again." Two of us laughed.
Like a child whose perfect world is shattered by the arrival of a sibling, I had grown to loathe my mother's ever-growing collection of African violets. Huge racks of them had taken over what had once been my room.  My sleep pattern didn't coincide with the timer on the daylight-spectrum fluorescent lights.  I was awakened the next morning by a sudden, blinding glare as the serious business of growing show plants began at six a.m. On Saturday.
My husband groaned and tugged a pillow over his head in a vain attempt to block the glare.  But I surrendered, staggered to the kitchen, and poured a cup of coffee. While my mother mixed a bloom elixir at the sink, I stared into my mug and wondered if coffee applied systemically would kill the encroaching jungle.  I decided not to risk an opposite, steroid-like effect lest we be strangled out like Bermuda grass in dandelion season.  
Years later, after Mother’s death, I found a box full of blue ribbons with pictures of all her winning plants.  I  thought about how hard she had worked for recognition, approval, attention.  And I mourned that she carried her story to her grave.  How ironic that the chasm between us was not the neatly dug hole where her coffin rested but rather a pit of fear . . . her deep fear of being fully known, of possible disapproval.  She wanted so dearly to belong that, in her striving, she missed the invitations.
I knew her gifts and talent.  The pile of blue satin ribbons were - for me - sad reminders  of the void within her. So I let them go and whispered, “Mama, I'm not afraid. You purchased this gift for me with your pain.  Thank you for loving me.” No emotion or sentiment, just awareness that I could choose a different path: the rocky road to an authentic life…filled with potholes and grand vistas and  many "re-calculating" moments.
Mother, you remain a mystery to me. Your fears grew with the passing years. Sweet moments were increasingly rare and fleeting. But the truth I glimpsed set me free. For you, outside of time, a healing. I wish you could have known in life that you were supremely loved. As is. Even if your plants developed root rot. You surely know this now: you belong. The great good God loves each of us as if we were the only. There is always room at his table.


In a world torn by dogma, doctrine and theology...where buildings, monuments and places of pilgrimage are worshipped...where plans trump the patient waiting with one whose map is lost...where love for another - an[unknown, unkempt]other - is an unwelcome interruption:

What if the new temple is built not of brick but of vulnerability?

What if - in this present life - we are stripped bare, laid open, crushed? Dying countless small deaths until only shards remain?

What if one brilliant jagged piece catches light, kindles a spark, births a flame?

What if - weeping tears of incense - we rise from ashes of refining fire into a broken land filled with lonely souls waiting to be heard?

Spare us, please, from becoming belonging belongers.


Carole said...

Belonging. So much packed into one word. So many struggles, wounds and hurts bound up in this one single word! Feeling wounded and vulnerable, experience has taught me that I can only be sure of one thing - I belong to God. Everything else is transcient. And actually once I really grasped this truth, it was liberating, but doesn't take away the feeling of vulnerability. Perhaps that's not a bad thing. Blessings to you my friend from across the pond.

Celeste said...

Such wise words, Carole. I love to hear from you. Blessing across the waters, my friend!