The Moon last Wednesday night took my breath away.
I was driving home after class when I noticed it, large and luminous, climbing the night sky. The waxing crescent's perfectly cut crisp curve, suspended just above the trees, was like something out of a child's picture book. I wanted to capture and hold it.
When I got home, I texted Cathy and said, "Go out and look at the moon tonight."
She wrote back,
"That moon is gorgeous. . .it's one of those I wish I could sit and swing on!"
And this morning on the way to A.W.E. my eye caught the flash of a large bird, winging through the trees in a park, and my brain fluttered through popular searches like a whirring rolodex:
I whipped the car into the park and stopped. Jack didn't answer, so I left a message.
Hey! I just saw a bald eagle on 70th Street!!!
Time with my A.W.E. Sisters was, well, awesome! We gather in circle and discuss what's on our minds, then enter silence together before talking about the book we're reading, a collection of essays on feminist theology edited by Elizabeth Johnson--The Strength of Her Witness. Challenging thought and writing, to say the least, and we find ways to help each other grasp its meaning. At the end of the session, I looked down and read the title aloud. So. . .what IS the "strength of our witness?" "How is it strong?"
I think we decided on wisdom--knowing our wisdom, and knowing what to do with it--when to be silent, and when to speak. But a part of me still resists even hearing that, because most women wait their whole lives to find and begin to use their voices. So, now we wait some more in silence? I don't think so. . .
I had this thought yesterday, too, when talking with someone about Centering Prayer being my primary spiritual practice. We spoke at length about the fruit of Centering Prayer, and how to get started. I shared that it's been my experience that, with any spiritual practice, in the beginning we commit to it and carry it, knowing that we won't do it perfectly, and we're not even expected to. Maybe that's why it's called "practice." After a time, the practice becomes so much a part of who we are, especially when it's particularly suited to our life, that the practice begins to carry us.
I said, also, and this was a new thought for me: I heard recently that the reason our hearts can serve us so well for years and years is because between beats our hearts are completely at rest. This is exactly why Centering Prayer is so good for us. The practice of Centering Prayer, brings us to a place of complete rest on a regular basis, just like the complete rest of our hearts between beats. (If you want to know more about Centering Prayer, take a look at Contemplative Outreach of Central Iowa on my Links Page.)
Last night, Jack and I watched Meru, the compelling story of some rock climbers on Meru, India's tallest peak. This film held everything for me, including joy, heartbreak, trust, anguish, miracles, amazement, horror, and wonder. Netflix. Just try it!
. . . Do you remember Second Grade?
In a couple of weeks, I will meet with parents of Second Graders in our Faith Formation program to talk with them about the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). Their children are now in formation, preparing for the sacrament, and I hope to equip their parents for being able to have meaningful conversations around the subject.
I also remind them that "You are your child's first Confessor." As parents, their response in those situations matters. Also, I like to tell them about my own second grade year, which held six significant events for me. Here's what happened:
At school one day, Mrs. Chastain announced she was leaving the room for a brief time, and we were to be on our best behavior while she was out. A boy on the other side of the room caught my attention, and started making faces at me. It became a competition, and pretty soon I was out of my chair, making the worst face I could conjure, with my eyes closed. This is what I was doing when Mrs. Chastain returned. She quietly asked me to come to her desk, then promptly swatted me on the seat a couple of times, something still allowed in the 50s, before sending me back to my desk. Not only was I humiliated by this, I was heartbroken that I'd disappointed my teacher. Small children can feel devastated when they know they have disappointed someone whom they deeply love and admire.
In March, my family moved to a different part of town, so I started attending a new school. Though we'd thoroughly rehearsed how to walk the few short blocks to school and back, on my first day when I reached the bottom of Flannery Drive, I turned right on Towry instead of left. I wandered around for a while, knowing I was lost. Small children can feel displaced, alone, and disoriented in the midst of new experiences.
In April, my cousin, Judy, died in heart surgery out in California. Judy was only thirteen years old This was my first experience of death and grief. Not only did my cousin die, my parents left to drive my grandparents out there. Small children can feel isolated and bewildered when someone dies, especially when there is no one there to help them begin to make sense of the experience.
While my parents were gone, my uncle came into our home and bullied and brutalized me. I'm not sure why he targeted me. There were two other adults in the house who did not intervene to protect me. This experience stayed with me a long time--the feelings of powerlessness and rage and shame. Small children have the capacity for big feelings, and a desire for revenge when they feel they have no recourse. I knew nothing at that time about forgiveness, or where to start.
And, finally, Memorial Day Weekend that year, I got kicked by a horse! I learned that in a flash, in a heartbeat, something painful and debilitating can occur, over which you have no control. I was lucky. I saw the horse wheel, and its back hooves coming at me, and I turned just in time. The back of my head and my shoulder took the blow instead of my face.
I talk about these events with parents, because it's important for them to think about who they live with--those little people in their lives who have the capacity for giant feelings that they may or may not share with anyone else. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a Sacrament of Healing, and a safe place for children to share their concerns and be heard.
And there's something else.
That same year, my grandmother gave my brother a Bible. One evening I picked it up and looked through its pages, and read the words, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." I didn't know this at the time, but the word "forsake" means "let go of"--in other words, "I will never leave you nor let go of you."
Even though I didn't know exactly what it meant, I knew those words were from God, and that they were meant just for me. Though I didn't know exactly what it meant, what better way for God to reach into the heart of a child who has had very real experiences of disappointment, bewilderment, abandonment, and wounding?
This is what I also want parents of young children to know--that their children have the capacity for encountering God, and that they have direct, meaningful experiences of God. And that God is there for them, even when a parent can't be.
Here are links to the two most powerful essays I've read in the past few days:
from Image Journal, Ryan Masters's Unless a Kernal of Wheat Falls"