Barefoot & Preaching is a syndicated monthly column in The Catholic Register.
Photo Credit: Marc Perrault
Holding, as an attribute of God, sort of fell out of the sky for me this month. I was looking out the window with wonder at just how many stars we can see without leaving the city in this new-to-us, small(er) city we now call home. As I juggle all the new things, I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it before. The Creator of the Universe is holding time and space in an eternal trajectory.
When my husband has spare time on a clear night, he packs up his gear and drives out to a secluded spot to take pictures of the sky. He has patience to research, set up, and wait for a few great shots. As someone who has always found God in the night sky, I love the work of Marc’s eye.
The pictures capture a millisecond of a work of creation that is millions of years in the making. The stars are older than the planet I walk on. The position of the moon follows a rhythm I barely understand. The northern lights catch in the atmosphere and dance whether the clouds cover them or not. And God is holding this ongoing creation open.
My world is full of tensions. People in the church horizontally excommunicating each other over different theological options. Rage and exhaustion with different opinions about COVID and the protocols. All the ordinary misunderstanding and difference of living and working with a fascinating array of human beings.
So much of what God has asked me to do in my faith life is to hold space. It seems an odd calling for a person who enjoys resolution so much. And yet, here I am.
While mercifully holding and appreciating my desire for control, God invites me into situations that are not about me. I have been invited to bring myself and appreciate the gifts, skills and perspectives of others. God presents me with people to love and learn from. Some of them I know for just a few moments, and others live in the same house. God invites me into the holding, an ongoing and open relationship of wonder and discovery, rather than immediate resolution.
How do we hold the tensions in a way that imitates the Creator? In what ways do we allow the stars to burn with their beautiful and consuming fire? How do we move with the freedom of the northern lights and leave room to see and appreciate the way others do likewise in different colours and sizes and shapes?
In a passage about people who rebel, the prophet Isaiah points out a God who is holding us through the tension: “The Lord waits to be gracious to you” (Isaiah 30:18). Jesus prepares his disciples for his death by promising that he goes “to prepare a place” for us (John 14:3). Salvation is not a moment, a perfect turning, an instantaneous and permanent resolution; it is an ongoing work of creation.
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.
Holding tension in my world looks like taking fifteen more minutes to get out of the door with a toddler who feels sad about the way I cut his toast. It sounds like the silent space after someone says something I disagree with while I dig for an authentically curious question that will deepen my understanding of their perspective. Feels like leaving the toys on the lawn and watching the sun set instead because the toys will be there in the morning, but the sun won’t set on this day ever again.
It has taken millions of years for the sky to look the way it will tonight. If God is waiting on me, and the divine plan requires preparing, then I can practice holding time and space. It is enough – no, it is a virtue in the midst of tensions – to hold space for one another to learn to love here.
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.
I want to practice curating beauty, participating in its fleeting possibilities, being carried away by the impossibility of it.
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.
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.
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.