Barefoot & Preaching is a syndicated monthly column in The Catholic Register.
Photo Credit: Becky Stevenson
When I think about the long list of things I need to practice, resurrection has never made the list. But I have been returning to the theme year after year in my writing. In 2017, I wrote about not being ready to rise. The next year, I was baking buns and reflecting on relaxing into the rising work of God. And then, the danger of daring to embrace joy. Apparently, I need more practice than I thought.
My (Catholic) faith tradition is really well-known for nailing Lent (pun wittily composed). And with our reputation for ashes and penance and giving up stuff, we have also received a collective inheritance of Catholic guilt and a tendency toward solemnity. Ashes and repentance are only one part of the Paschal story that is the heart of our faith: they are meant to lead us into resurrection.
We’ve all been walking through an exceptionally extended pandemic lent in the liturgy of our lives. This long season has asked us to enter into a sacrificial suffering, a humility of spirit for the sake of those most at risk. And in the process, we have practiced being especially discerning, sacrificial, and solemn about life. Because we become through our behaviour, the season of surviving the suffering has changed us.
For many, as the world opens up, the things we used to take for granted feel like miracles. Gatherings of more than small groups. Seeing smiles. Reaching out to touch or hug a friend. And at the same time, these things feel risky, and still are. For those receiving cancer treatments or living with autoimmune conditions, isolation has become even more necessary now.
We have been practicing caution for so long, joy can feel out of reach. It is time to practice resurrection.
Christians on the Roman calendar celebrate Easter for fifty days. Note that this is 10 days longer than Lent and the Christmas season barely hits the double digits. Most of us can hardly handle a celebration that lasts longer than seventy-two hours before we crave the rest of ordinary time. We rush home from whatever plans we have scribbled on the calendar and retreat into sweat pants and laundry and a good tv binge to recover from indulging in our over-the-top celebrations.
But what would it look like to practice rising, to live into resurrection in our every-day lives in a way that we can sustain? Is this not what the joy of the resurrection invites?
The restrict-and-binge cycle is not a healthy or holy way. There is a time for sacrifice and a time for abundance, a time for repentance and a time for celebration. And we can practice both as they are needed, moving in and out of one and the other, hour by hour and day by day.
Even while we hold our own and the world’s pain, we can practice resurrection. We can take a walk and delight in the signs of spring. Count the buds forming on trees, the flowers breaking through cold earth. We can set our prayers for the suffering in the arms of God for an hour and let ourselves laugh till our sides ache.
Salvation is something that God gives to us by working it out in us. In order to receive the gift, we have to cooperate with it. It isn’t enough that Jesus died for me if I insist on earning salvation by being a grouchy martyr; I have to receive the gift, opening it up and letting it change me.
God invites me to delight in joy, to receive it and wonder at it, to choose it over and over again. Will I practice setting down my misery, no matter how valid, to giggle with my toddler before bed? Can I practice seeing the miracle of the person in front of me even while they fold the towels differently that I do? Am I willing to delight in the absolute perfection of my favourite song on the lips of my teenager coming from her messy room?
What if the world knew the followers of Jesus as the joyful ones? Jesus’ resurrection is not just a day, but is actually our present and our future. May we spread the Easter candy and good news over all the days instead of just a select few. May we practice rising with the same tenacity as our repentance. And may the resurrection we practice bring new life out of the ashes of the last two years.
I was reflecting on this shift with one of our new Indigenous members. I said that things were uncomfortable for some. And she said, with the characteristic honesty that I have come to love deeply, “Welcome to what it feels like for me all the time.”
When I sit under the stars, I feel my relative smallness in the universe and a simultaneous gratitude that God saw fit to have a place for me in it. I feel called to step into this massive work of creation and place my tiny hands in God’s eternal hands and hold the tension alongside the Spirit.
I heard Imperfection laughing with me. Her laugh sounds so much like God’s grace to me.
Over the last four years, maybe one of my biggest learnings is that the mess is not just a place to clean up or avoid. Hiding it away (whether for showing a house or perpetuating my denial) doesn’t make it any less real. The mess waits, bides its time, slowly seeps out of the cracks of inevitable imperfection. The mess is a space we live in. Because the alternative is to suspend our living while we wade through the mess.
As fall turned to winter, I found a prayer for life transitions in Common Prayer, A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. We were considering a move, in the middle of a pandemic. It all felt very complicated. And the opening line of the prayer resonated with me: “Lord, help...
The problem with letting God catch me is that I have to jump. I have to give over the middle and the end, precisely at the place that feels most vulnerable. In the height of risk, surrender is the call. I want to let it ring. I’ll call back when it works better for me. Despite thousands of recitations of the words, it turns out that I am not okay with being enough. I want to be everything. I want to jump and catch, and the world does not work that way.
Image by Pezibear from Pixabay Longing is a place I visit frequently, passing through on the way to somewhere else. The floor is worn at the entrance way and in front of the window, where walking gently back and forth has left its mark. The chair...
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?
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.