The small woman
Builds cages for everyone
While the sage,
Who has to duck her head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
I spent the last four days in the mountains of North Carolina. Speaking, yes. I was at Wild Goose to tell my story. That’s not the most important thing I did there, though. Actually, it doesn’t crack the top ten.
I was in those mountains to float in a river and hang out with God. I was there to sit in on talks of race and gender, justice and forgiveness- and listen. I was there to spend important time with my Favorite, and quietly walk through sun-dappled woods with him. I was there to stop what I was doing every time someone wanted to tell me their story, and I was there to bear witness. I was there to hug a friend I’d only ever known on-line and on the phone, and I was there to push her littles on swings and delight in their nonsense. I was there to dance sober under the stars.
And, as it turns out, I was in those mountains to grieve.
There’s no internet connection at Goose- just human connection. Real, honest-to-God human connection. That meant that my focus was on the people in front of me and not the great big world out there. I was largely unaware of what was going on. I didn’t hear the details of what transpired in Dallas until I was at the airport coming home. I heard snippets, of course. I could have gone to town and logged on. I could have gone down the rabbit hole of anger and despair. I could have stepped away from quiet and important conversations to dive into social media and expressed my frustration in CAPS. I’ve done it before, and I’ll likely do it again, sadly.
They’re both important. Sometimes it’s a time to shout, but we need to listen, too. Sometimes it’s a time to make bold statements, but we need to ask serious, hard questions and we need to listen to the answers even when they are painful or uncomfortable. Especially when they are painful or uncomfortable.
And we need to lament. We need to express our grief. I think too often we want to skip that part and go straight to anger. Anger is safer, somehow. We need to mourn. We are hurting. We are ALL hurting so, so much. Because racism and violence damage both the perpetrator and the victim. We are all wounded. The evils of racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, and xenophobia are malignant. They are a cancer in our world, and we are all sick and suffering. The difference is that those of us with privilege get to choose what role we’ll play in the equation. We have a choice to oppress, or not. To exclude, or not. To discriminate, or not. To harm, or not.
When you’re gay, you’re gay. When you’re transgendered, you’re transgendered. When you’re a woman, you’re a woman. When you’re a refugee, you’re a refugee.
When you’re black, you’re black.
And I am not defending what happened in Dallas. It’s indefensible. Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I owe a lot of my healing to law enforcement and my personal experience with them. I’ve no interest in painting with a broad brush. I believe most police officers are good and decent and care deeply about serving the communities in which they work. Those women and men who risk their lives to protect and defend the public are harmed and endangered by the ones who do not. And the “blue wall” of universal support for all officers all of the time- even when their actions are unlawful and racist- compromises the safety of police officers and the public alike.
Violence begets violence begets violence begets violence.
My session was Friday morning. Rachael Anne Clinton, the phenomenal woman with whom I was fortunate enough to be paired, alluded to the fact that something bad had happened the previous evening. I knew I needed to focus on my job in that moment, and that I needed to be present for the people in front of me, both to tell my story and to hear theirs.
I made the deliberate choice not to know about it just yet because I knew it would shatter my concentration and because I have that luxury.
That night, after a long day of listening and dancing, praying and singing, hugging and reflecting, Favorite and I went back to our tent to sleep. We were in bed, and the most amazing music began to swell around us. I couldn’t make out the words, but I had a lump in my throat and my eyes began to tear up in the dark.
Favorite whispered to me, “I feel like we’re missing out on something.” We got up, threw on sneakers, and stumbled to the Cafe tent.
It was a scheduled event called “OPENINGS. A RITUAL of RESISTANCE and HOPE”
Oh you prisoners in your cells
All you in private hells
All you hungry and ignored
Who thirst for something more
You know how when you hear perfect harmony you can feel it vibrate in your very bones? That’s what it felt like- and even though the harmonies WERE stunning, I don’t think that’s why. You could see it on each person’s face. The ache. The pain. The grief.
The song we were hearing was a lament.
You who feel lost but are afraid of being found
You who are in chains but are afraid to live unbound
Kyrie eleison, kyrie eleison.
I remember when the incident with the young girl at the pool party occurred last summer, and Jen Hatmaker was posting about it. She said, “I wish we knew how to lament better.” I wrote about it at the time, that YES. We need to learn to come together in grief. We need ritual. We need each other.
For all us lovely needy people
Living in this world that’s spinning
Round and round and round
Round and round and round
Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy
Kyrie eleison, kyrie eleison
It was part sermon, part performance art. The theme, Openings, was expressed through doors. There was a turquoise restroom door to symbolize HB2, the law of the land in North Carolina. There were two other doors as well. The pastor speaking talked about how we ALL slam doors on those we consider other.
From time to time someone would slam one of the doors against the main tent pole. You could see people jump each time it happened. That’s good. A slammed door should shock us all.
A young man read part of Warsan Shire’s stunning poem Home.
As the powerful words spilled out I looked from face to face. Some were tear streaked, some were angry, some eyes open, some shut. We all grieved differently, but we were together in it the way I truly believe we are intended to be. We were connected in sorrow. When I looked into those strangers’ faces I saw my pain reflected back at me, and I felt less alone.
People took turns pinning photos of people whose lives were taken simply because of who they are. Simply for being who God intended them to be.
We are all in this. We are all harmed by this violence. I don’t understand why that’s so hard for us all to understand.
If you are not free, then NEITHER AM I. My freedom hinges on yours.
Oh you children ripped and torn
Battered, bruised and worn
All who look hate in the face
Locked in hate’s embrace
A woman spoke of the need for those of us with keys to unlock the doors, and then to go one step further. To take off the hinges, because we are not supposed to have doors in the first place. Mother Teresa was right. We have no peace because we have forgotten one fundamental truth- we belong to each other.
You who’ve given up and can’t see anywhere but down
You who’ve lost all hope and think it’s nowhere to be found
Kyrie eleison, kyrie eleison
Then they took that turquoise restroom door, and they turned it into a table and served the Eucharist from it.
There is mercy enough, there is grace enough
There is love enough for all of us
There is enough. There is no such thing as other. Those two lies- that false sense of scarcity and that refusal to believe that we are all the same, every single one of us a beloved child of God- are at the root of all of this pain.
If you are in possession of the key of privilege, unlock the door and then drop it for the next Beautiful, Rowdy Prisoner- because if he or she is not free, then NEITHER ARE YOU. Then take the door off the hinges, and feed someone from it.
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