Barefoot & Preaching is a syndicated monthly column in The Catholic Register.
Photo Credit: Brian Zimmer
Space was not on my mind when I began a dream job at 23, four months pregnant. I thought the job would be decades away when we decided to try for a first baby. And life happened differently than I planned. I moved into an office and set up the crib, learning about motherhood and work at the same time. Hindsight gradually revealed the significance of the two experiences happening simultaneously.
I was working in administrative ministry, supporting staff delivering programs and meeting with the public to discuss their hopes and their concerns. Very quickly, I discovered that I was serving people with very different ways of seeing the world and the Church – different from each other, and different from me. I was also learning that the baby growing inside me had very different ideas than I did about when we should rest and play, or what we should eat. Both my body and my office needed to be places with space for more people than just me.
This past week, we braced for a blizzard that kept us home for days in the middle of a pandemic. Saskatoon has had a provincial election, and a delayed municipal election under the shadow of a significant American political drama. Another layer of grief flowed down my cheeks. I have been full to overflowing for months. Shoveling for hours, I dug mostly for more space inside myself.
I am weary from disappointment and preparing for the likelihood that I will not get to hug each of my siblings, nieces and nephews at Christmas. Listening to many polarized voices, I am aching for justice and peace and understanding among neighbours and nations. And each tear that flows out frees up the energy it took to hold it in.
With each of life’s unexpected turns, I discover deeper wells inside myself. The Creator seems to know I will eventually find them. I have explored the well-formed drifts in caverns of healing, the waves of freedom in a season carved out for rest, and been surprised by the space created by love. The pandemic has invited me to see and make space for a restless world – around me and inside me.
All those fourteen years ago, my oldest baby showed me that love is what breaks open the space. Each of my pregnancies, I have wondered and marveled at who is growing inside, waiting to meet these tiny people who will fill up the space in my heart and my life. I do not agree with them all the time, and I do not get to choose who they become. One encounter at a time, they are teaching me how to love the people they actually are.
I want the world to be different than it is right now. It feels like we deserve the sunlight and warmth of July instead of this intense onset of winter. If only difficult conversations could happen in person instead of on Zoom, I might be less prone to misunderstanding. Why did the pandemic follow three years of surviving grief one day at a time for my family? All the resistance weighs me down.
Here, in what is right now, God is holding infinitely more space for me to fall into. It is not out there, somewhere outside me, in circumstances different from these. The space is only a deep breath away, quieting myself into this moment with love.
Curiosity helps me to keep loving people who are different from me. Creativity allows me to dig a new path when snow blocks my way. Silence makes space for what – and who – is before me right now.
So many parts of the world are falling away and being reformed. It feels like eight months of blizzard conditions. But reduced visibility, icy conditions drifting snow, and closed roads will not last forever. Spring will come in its own good time, with no assistance from me.
Mine is the work of making space, allowing this season to stretch me into a new form. When the snow melts and the sun rises hours before I wake, may I be found more flexible than I was before. May I rise to injustice and polarization with merciful grace. And may the space created here birth something beautiful that is wholly other than I could ask for or imagine. Amen.
Shoveling for hours, I dug mostly for more space inside myself.
The God who has held me for every moment of my existence does not offer a heady salvation from a massive throne on a far off judgement day; the Spirit pours the saving into creation and wraps itself around me in every moment.
And all these awkward stages in life and in creation are part of the miracle of being alive. They are neither better nor worse than seedling or mature stages of growth. Where did I learn to judge the awkward as bad, the uncomfortable as awful, the exposed as wrong?
I am learning to practice falling the way I practice guitar: to learn to recognize the notes and to trace my fingers over them until they feel familiar.
Delivered in memory of Abbie Speir at the Court of Queen's Bench in Regina, Saskatchewan on July 23, 2020, at the Sentencing Hearing for Kevin Obina Okafor. So often, in the days since you took Abbie’s life, Kevin, people have said that they cannot imagine what it is...
Photo Credit: Marc Perrault Honest is hard. There is nothing like a season of physical distancing to remind me of that truth. We have joined in the effort to protect the vulnerable by staying home and away from other households, drawing the six of us into closer...
Space is not a word I associated with love for most of my life. I grew up longing for the freedom of stretching further away from the intimacy of my family and small, Saskatchewan town. I sat in the farm house window sill in my bedroom, staring up at the expansive,...
The thing is, there is no happily ever after. There is only ever happy moments, gifts for receiving in the midst of whatever is right now. I am undone fairly often when the illusion of happily ever after falls apart – again.
My feelings come in waves, both fleeting and relentless. They find their way to the fault lines of life’s previous earthquakes.
Both physical courses and spiritual paths have things to teach us with every step. Any medal awarded at the end is only a symbol of the wins along the way. In this way, staying the course is its own reward.
On Being Barefoot…
Before the burning bush, God asks Moses to take off his sandals, to notice and reverence that he walks on holy land. This holy land continues to burn before me, before us, signaling God’s presence before we arrived rather than because we did. This life we are living was holy before we existed in it. This land and creation we call home is the first book of revelation, God’s love letter to us, bearing witness to the Creator of it all.Our lives and the moments that make them up are the stuff of sainthood, our invitations to participate in Divine life to be swallowed up and fulfilled by God. At the grocery store, in the false solitude of our cars and commutes, in our laundry rooms, and over text messages. My shoes run the risk of “protecting” me from the sacredness of this naked moment. And how I love shoes, and how my sensitive toes resist the prickles of grass and the mess of sand. But barefoot is how my spirituality works, daring to live an embodied and earthy love of Jesus who took on flesh. I’m wandering through this life, yearning to let go of my shoes, to walk reverently and with deep attention to what passes under my feet and to what isn’t yet my path. Barefoot is how I write, how I speak, how I work. Experience shored up against an insatiable thirst for knowledge; direct honesty honed by sensitivity; and vulnerability chained to a commitment to competency. And an unapologetically barefoot tendency to speak it as I feel it, which leads me to…
I’m a preacher without a pulpit, with words that burn until they are spoken ~ aloud or on a page.
My ministry is one of colliding words and ideas, reaching out to find a connection with God’s amazing people.
The world seems to me to be spilling over with grace and we seem to be people who, all too quickly forget that all of this is pure gift.
When I’m driving, eating, visiting, resting, cleaning, working, playing, and almost everything else, I’m frequently stunned by the pure miracle of what simply is.
It’s not all promised joy and ease, but it is all presenced and remembered by the One who gives it. And I can’t stop talking about it, proclaiming it, preaching this good news that we have not been forgotten or forsaken in any moment of this life.
For reasons I don’t quite understand, my words seem to be given to encourage and inspire. In a world where women and girls are still too-often silenced or secondary, I’m barefoot and preaching because my soul won’t rest any other way. If my words can be a gift to you, then that is a gift for me.