Barefoot & Preaching is a syndicated monthly column in The Catholic Register.
Photo Credit: Darryl Millette
Resistance is an old friend of mine. She knows the arc of my back going up and places a comforting hand on my shoulder to let me know I am not alone. But three times in the same week, I heard familiar words from Deuteronomy: “See, I have set before you life and prosperity, death and adversity. Choose life.” I dismissed the first two without thinking about it. Who actually chooses death? The third time I asked the question, the answer spilled out of me. I do.
I was reading Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak, a tiny book that undoes me every time I go back to it. And his reflection on this passage broke me open again. He wisely acknowledges that this warning is in Deuteronomy because sometimes death feels safer and more familiar than the new life that lies beyond it. We can make friends with death and adversity.
Despite my dramatic tendencies, I resist dramatic statements about death and evil as a general rule. Fear is a terrible way to introduce the God of love I have encountered, and hell and brimstone, rigid approaches to teaching and rules, and overly dramatic responses to poor choices have almost never turned hearts toward love for the long haul in my experience. But the title of this piece resonates with the gift God gave me as I read: I choose death when I go for coffee with Resistance.
Resistence sidles up with a hot chocolate with extra whipped cream and invites Righteousness, and the three of us make a right mess of my world.
The conversation and decisions that come out of this relationship feel familiar and effortless, which I mistake easily for life. But the aftermath begs for another look every single time. Resistance follows me home from the coffee date and feeds Resentment because no amount of wanting things to be different than they are changes Reality.
At different seasons in my life, I needed the protection Resistance offered because I wasn’t ready to face reality. She sheltered me from greater pain and gave me space and time to grow. Having grown and healed, however, I am recognizing that I have outgrown my friendship with Resistance because she brings more pain that she shelters me from now. It just took me awhile to see because the resistance has become an insidious habit.
It’s minus 37 degrees out and it feels like minus 51 and I resist going outside because it is easier and cozier to stay inside.
There are decisions to be made by people who aren’t me, and I resist the patience and lack of control that are my part. To satisfy Resistance, I try to control everything at home, as if clean floors and quiet children could alleviate my discomfort with waiting.
I have a plan and it is failing, and I resist its failure, putting it on life support unnecessarily, prolonging the inevitable. I choose the painful death over the peaceful one that can give way to something new.
I’m breaking it off with Resistance. She means well but the time has come for us to drift apart. It will probably take some time for the break-up to be complete, as I suspect I will be tempted to call her from time to time when Reality proves to be just a bit too much life for me. And there’s an insight there too – I choose death when I am afraid of the life and prosperity and blessing that lies before me.
Resistance is a manifestation of fear for me and God has shown me that fear is never the best plan for my life. Fear is a warning sign rather than a place to make a home and Resistance is only a friend if she leads me eventually to Reality.
There are deep and wonderful gifts in the world as it is, when I am ready to befriend Reality. Today I will put on my mittens and my hat and let the frost form on my eyelashes, breathing deeply into the energy that comes from laying my feet on the earth. I will wait with wonder at the grace available in an in between place, laughing with my children at how hard it is for grown-ups to wait. (We will leave the ski-pants on the floor so I can practice.) And I will let go of my plan and choose the life that follows what falls apart.
Today, I choose life.
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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.