I have so many ideas rattling around in my head and my heart. Some of those pass on by and some are confusing and scattered and some are pieces of living that seem to rise up and go in too many directions. I am full of my own opinions and speculations. I am spilling over with opinions and speculations of others.
Over the last weeks, maybe even months, the idea of what might be below the progenies of my overthinking self has surfaced in conversations.
As I sometimes do, I pulled out my old notebook of daily writing and remembering from at least a year ago and right there on the first page, I had copied Walter Brueggemann’s words that struck me as worth writing down at the time.
Old Testament prophets hardly ever discuss ‘an issue’…they’re going underneath the issues…to more foundational assumptions that can only be got at in elusive language. Very much the institutional church has been pre-occupied with issues. When we do that we are robbed of transformative power. Because then its ideology verses ideology, and that does not produce good outcomes for anyone.
Becoming Wise: An Inquiry Into the Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippett
Prophets of all times embody that subversion at the heart of being human.
We can exchange many other groups for the institutional word “church” here—school, government, or any group of people with whom we identify or oppose. And even within the issues emerging from paradoxical layers of experience hidden inside each of us.
When I was a young mother, I remember a friend lost his job with the administrative body of a major protestant denomination. Our group of supportive friends were despaired by the impact not only on his career and income, but on his family’s well-being. Somehow, he held on to a deep center. It was that place, underneath the issues, that prevented him from not being silent about an institutional stance. To be perfectly honest, I don’t remember what the issue was and it doesn’t seem important to remember.
What I do remember is another conversation my friend Richard and I shared months before the surface of his life took a turn. I remember him saying that there is a place inside us that is below our values and beliefs; that is where God comes. I didn’t exactly know what to do with that comment, but I have not forgotten his words. Is that place the same place Walter Brueggemann describes, where transformation is possible?
I am so quick to judge opinions and perspectives of institutions and people. It is easy for me to surmise who is on my side or who has it all wrong, until I hear their under story—the fear that shapes us and fuels our desires and the longing to belong. I am drawn to the stories that hint at the mystery below that encourages us to give up the pretence of fearful living.
My friend Richard’s way of being in the world came at a great cost on the surface and yet, I don’t know how his life unfolded since we lost touch years ago. I do know that in our attempt to measure a life, we sometimes catch a glimpse of that place below even when the outward expression of that deep center is not describable or definable.
How do we engage another as fully human instead of as one belonging to whatever group of assumptions we’ve assigned? To pause long enough to experience the deep of the “unintended corners of our hearts.” To, as Vincent Harding invites us, “hear each other’s best arguments and best contributions, so that we can then figure out how do we put these things together to create a more perfect union.”
Or will we regress because, as only Walter Brueggeman can craft, “the infrastructure of fidelity is too expensive and calls us to give up our whoring after quick, private solutions.”
In the words of another of modern day prophet, Congressman John Lewis,
the results are harder to see…when people say…that things aren’t better now…I say, ‘Come and walk in my shoes.’ We are better people now in spite of everything…Yes, we still have miles to go but that’s what a journey is: putting one foot in front of the other.
In His Truth is Marching On by Jon Meacham, Afterward by John Lewis
To move out of living identified with my experience and preoccupied with myself, to sustaining a conscious relationship to my experience where my field of awareness expands, and can allow fears to be seen and interrupted… putting one foot in front of the other.