Barefoot & Preaching is a syndicated monthly column in The Catholic Register.
Photo Credit: Katherine Siebert
Falling is on my list of least favourite things. It sits on the shelf beside failure and spontaneity, where I intentionally avoid the whole lot of them to convince myself they don’t exist. But denial is no match for the laws of physics. Gravity pushes everything back to earth. Eventually, I cannot stop myself from falling apart, being unequal to the forces of life.
Several years ago, I wrote about depression and falling into desperation for grace. More recently, I’ve wrestled with finding myself at the bottom of my capacity and coming undone. Falling apart is not a new theme for me, so why is it so surprising to find myself there every single time it happens?
The weight of my world got too heavy to hold this week. Too much work, too many weeks of pandemic, relentless parenting, the weight of grief, finding words to say in a Victim Impact Statement at a hearing. I sensed the falling coming, which is growth for me. I asked my hair person to cut off several inches. Called a therapist. Told my people I wasn’t doing well. I felt the immanence of the falling, but I was still resisting.
Guilt flooded me with lies pooling at my feet that I should be able to do all the hard things and protect others from suffering. I felt weak as tears threaten to spill over the edges of me. I longed for relief without having to be relieved.
On my way home from work, I called some friends, and then I pulled over a block from home and cried hard and heavy for half an hour. I called my mom.
I allowed the falling apart.
Slowly, 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. I appreciate the tiniest of advances in skill and technique only to discover that muscle memory and intuition do things that my mind isn’t capable of alone.
And every time I fall, I find the ground beneath me, earth that has been carrying me all along. The difference between before and after seems only to be my awareness of who is really carrying the world’s heaving weight. It (still) is not me. Pure gift.
It is so hard for me to accept that falling apart is a spiritual practice, a virtue to grow into, a way of being that restores and heals me – and maybe even some corner of the universe. I was not made to carry so heavy a load, to walk alone, to be bowed over under the weight of it all. Two years ago, I wrote a book called My Heart of Flesh, with a chapter on falling apart. Today, I reread the words I wrote: “There is a time for falling down, for losing my grip, for everything coming apart at the seams, for the old to fall away, for the rubble to be sifted through. I am learning that these broken places are not abandoned by God but where he lives.”
I love finding trees felled in unexpected places, a powerful trunk laying across a stream with roots stretching toward the sky instead of into the earth. I am comforted by waves crashing into the shore. My heart is healed when heavy clouds give way into a heavy and steady rain. It is so much easier to see nature’s beauty than it is to see my own.
Right in the middle of being not okay, friends whisper their love for me. My mom answers the phone and cries with me. Marc makes dinner and gives me a hug. The falling apart gives way to a family baseball game in the backyard and toddler giggles at bedtime. My heart beats softer after the tears. There is a raw beauty here in this long season of falling and finding the ground holding me over and over again. I am going to keep watching for it, trusting I am not the only one practicing.
As I prepare to celebrate the God who comes to us where we are, again and again, I am delighting that who God is always exceeds my experience and understanding.
Photo Credit: Jon Hansen, CsSROriginally Published in Living with Christ, Wisdom from our friends For most of my life, Advent was a time of preparing for Jesus’ coming, a joyful and prayerful time. We baked cookies and froze them, eagerly anticipating when it would be...
I got to spend two beautiful evenings with my Grandma in the week before she died last month. While I held her hand and listened to her stories, and then to her breathing when she couldn’t speak anymore, I was flooded with memories. Picking raspberries and eating more than we put in the bucket. Sitting on the swing in her garden. Watching parades and going camping. Crawling into bed on Saturday morning after Friday night sleepovers. Sometimes, remembering is effortless.
Thanks acknowledges what is as well as my need. Gratitude pours me out so I can be filled. Thanksgiving pushes me toward the next right thing.
I am convinced there is no moving on from the wounds that break our hearts; there are only shifts.
Photo Credit: Blake Sittler “Overdrawn,” I thought, as I drove out of the city on the first day of vacation. “I feel like my whole life is overdrawn.” The metaphor has been slowly revealing its roots over three weeks away, gradually giving over the gifts that can come...
Weather was at the front of my mind as I headed out to the lake for the long weekend in July with four kids in tow while my husband was away working. Temperature, sunshine, rain, and wind speeds affect packing and planning, and perhaps most significantly, our moods....
When I posted about being here on social media, a friend posted in response: Hearts are so so much bigger than places. He is so right. My heart could sort through back packs and listen to competing stories over pizza, let an ordination live stream in the background and facetime with Dad. I felt connected to all the people and deeply satisfied with being here in one.
There are little pots of wildflowers growing tentatively in the windowsill. There are little piles of soil on the ledge and the floor no matter how many times I wipe them away. There’s a little girl who smiles every time she looks at them and worries whenever someone else gets too close. What might grow if I make room for the messy gardening, the inevitability that some of the beloved sprouts will die, and the inconvenient tears that will follow?
. To be honest, I am better at repenting (and the accompanying self-criticism) than I am at rejoicing. Besides, doesn’t everybody know that joy is dangerous?
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.