This morning, it's ten minutes until 10:00 a.m. Usually at this time I am saying my prayers of submission to God alongside Rev. Thomas Ryberg and Rev. Tom Ott at First Congregational Church of Battle Creek before we head in to officiate worship. It's important to pray and surrender to God before worship as an officiant because if you don't, you can easily think that you're responsible for God's presence instead of a vessel/witness for/to G-d's presence. That difference is the difference between idolatry and faithfulness. Kind of a big deal. Anyways, enough pontification.
Today, this morning, I'm at home eating breakfast with Aurora while J.R. is in the shower. I'm home because I'm on maternity leave. My baby is 3 days past his due date. I'm good for nothing in the work world so I'm staying away from church even though the baby isn't here yet. I have some guilt about that, but it's fleeting. Like I said, it's ten minutes until 10:00 a.m. and all of a sudden Aurora starts saying "Tommy and Tom. Tommy. Tom. Tommy and Tom." Over and over, at least 20 times because that's what toddlers do: they repeat themselves. And I'm thinking to myself over cheerios, oh that's interesting. What interesting timing. Usually I'm with them, and not just beside them physically, but *with* them, in the most soul-connective, profoundly spiritual way you can be with folks at this time. And my daughter just happens to be uttering their names.
Interesting. Kind of an under statement.
Is my soul in her soul? I keep thinking about what we transfer. What lives on. What becomes (into) one from another. Does what we love become an object of affection in our children even before they can consciously choose to love that thing? I'm convinced that Aurora is not cognitively developed enough to put the multiple layers of time/place/relationship/face/name together in a conscious way (yet). Even so here she is at 19 months articulating, perfectly, the names of my Sunday morning companions, these men who have become more than colleagues, more than anything I can describe with words. Doing collaborative ministry (in the way we do) affords bonds between those ministering together that simply cannot be described. But I'll try.
Pastor teams see birth and death and abuse and liberation together, concretely, first hand. You pray with those dying on your knees together. You pour water on newborns, passing fresh flesh, one saying God, one saying Christ, one saying Holy Spirit together. You hear about people's trauma history in the same room and cry together in complete surrender to wordlessness, wishing you still believed in omnipotence. You watch together as people you love pick up the shards of glass that accumulate at their feet after divorce or being fired and you watch them take the tools of faith and their relationship with G-d and you watch them rebound beyond everyone's expectations. Pastor teams survive incredible upheaval and betrayal in the institution you serve together and become each other's only sources of sanity in those times. You have conflict with each other, sometimes big and sometimes small, but come out on the other side, better, with a greater appreciation for the diversity you bring and how that serves the collective better than any of you could as a solo pastor. Together. You serve a Great Great God and sometimes you witness that Greatness in the midst of your collaboration and other times you witness that Greatness in spite of it, which makes the belief in Greatness even more palpable. What I am trying to say here is that my relationships with Tom and Tommy, my love of them, is something very particular. It's a togetherness of profound power. And it's at its zenith on Sunday mornings.
So when my daughter starts calling their names when we are completely separate from the environment in which those relationships and that love usually flourish, I am struck by how that power might have made itself known to her. And then it has me questioning the whole freakin enterprise of spiritual power and parenting. Like, what kind of love relationships did I inherit from my parents? I found out recently that my biological father had a love of W.E.B Dubois and James Baldwin. My biological father who never spent a full day of his life with me. And yet, when I read Baldwin, and commingle with other folks for whom Baldwin's writings are important, I can feel this bone-deep sense of connection with something that transcends and yet lives inside of me. Did I inherit that love?
All this to say: how it gets transmitted is a total mystery to me. But the fact that love gets passed on is of no question. As I sit here on the verge of giving birth to yet another gift/child, I'm more encouraged than ever that resurrection is real. Or, in the words of Mumford & Sons: "In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die. Where you invest your love, you invest your life." Amen.