Thursday, September 22, 2011

Side by Side: Prophetic & Maternal

I am a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Religion is a vocation deeply embedded in the history of my ancestors and I come from clergy blood on both sides of my family. Years ago I, like many of my forefathers, took an oath to conserve and uphold the traditions of the Church in all of my affairs. Part of the ministerial office requires truth telling about issues of morality and justice, what many of us refer to as the prophetic aspect of ministry. Like the prophets of old (Amos, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jesus), ministers of today are called to speak the truth in love, particularly if society is falling into corruption. We are called to be verbal red flags in the communities where we find ourselves, voicing alarm where the streets have been bruised and breeched, and voicing invitation for all those who are lost in sin to return to the loving presence of a grace that can always forgive and set free. This is only one aspect of our work but it is an important one. In all honesty, I believe many pastors go into this work because we have an extra sensitive ingrained sense of right and wrong and the Church is one of few public institutions that conserves and places a rite upon truth telling even at the cost of one’s life. This is certainly true in my case and the prophetic aspect of ministry has always felt most natural to me.

I am also in the second trimester of pregnancy, expecting my first child in the Spring of 2012. For the first time in my life I am looking at issues of right and wrong, morality and justice as one who will bring a child into the world. All of sudden the prophetic is sitting alongside the maternal. Whereas before the prophetic alarm would sound in the direction of particular issues or events in society, I now think much more about how these issues and events shape the thinking of children. For instance, as all of my friends and colleagues were scurrying to write letters on behalf of Troy Davis this week (a very important act in itself, make no mistake), I kept pondering how to explain to my child that the government feels justified in taking life. And when I heard the news about racist vandalism being smeared all over Orchard Park in Battle Creek this week, I thought about the children witnessing hateful language about their own skin-color in their own neighborhood. Such things certainly qualify as domestic, psychological terrorism. What does this do to the worldview of a seven year old? Further, a report from the U.S. census came out this week reporting that 23.5% of children under the age of 18 in the state of Michigan are in poverty. When my child is in school and hears in history class the recurring rhetoric of this nation being a place where anyone can make it, how do I explain almost one of four kids crying of hunger pains at night?

Capital punishment has always mattered to me. As have racism and poverty. But what matters to me more than ever is that the single thread woven throughout all of these issues & events become more and more clear to all of us: life. The dignity of human life. When we think about the politicians we vote for, the churches we attend, the news stations we watch, the people we hang out with, the professional fields we go into, the words we use, the actions we take—perhaps the greatest litmus test of all is whether or not these things will shape the worldview of children to regard the dignity of human life.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Psalm of Maternal Gratitude

Making your way.
So miracle. 
I am joined, because of you,
to countless generations of women
who have surrendered
their bodies to the great unknown:
new sensations everyday,
hopes and fears and prayers everyday,
unraveling mysteries everyday

We women, oh my God: 
what we do to continue.

You, joining me to that continuation
because you chose to be alive
and I don’t understand how that happens
but I cry envisioning the resolve in you,
you once a little swimming thing 
in a group of other swimming things.
You of all them that made it,
made it into me like hallelujah, yes, here I go.
You precious, strong growing everyday. 

And you are inside, but the external is different now.
So much softer now, less willing to sharpen or harden now,
or fasten tight to futile protectiveness. 
Yes, you are teaching me these things:
let it change you, reform you, stretch you, remake you even if
it means being ripped apart in the process—
the world, this you-world-inside-me,
teaching me what it means to give absolutely everything,
which is loss and blossom at the same time.

How can I thank you?
Still inside, and
changing the whole wide world...