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A Life That is Holy

Updated: Dec 24, 2023

This Here Flesh has enlivened and even shaped some of my thinking/feeling in these last months. Author Cole Arthur Riley rises in awareness for me today because I was recently gifted with a statement from her that got caught in my seminary-professor’s craw: You can’t talk someone into their liberation (189). She’s right. I know she’s right. Yet my entire profession could be considered as trying to talk students into their own liberation.

Riley’s closing chapter on liberation touches another chord, given my husband and I often muse on United’s institutional value scriptural holiness. We’ve shaken our heads, not having a clue what that means, knowing whatever description might be offered would diverge greatly from our Presbyterian sensibilities. At least my own.


But Riley invites something I can recognize, even profess to practice, though it challenges something else in me (serendipitously/providentially arising in a breathwork circle last night):


A life that is holy is a life that allows for all of your uncertainties, your curiosities and unbelief…[even] holds them sacred. … we must adopt a spiritual psyche whose deepest concern is not enlightenment or education but doing our best at telling the truth. … When we encounter ourselves on the shore of the unreal, together we implement new habits of self and communal compassion, and patience, and inclusion, so that we can safely travel into what we truly think and feel. It requires that we tell the truth–or rather, what we believe to be true in the season of life we are in. Even if our voices are shaking. Even if we’re dead wrong. (187-88)


To be clear, I do consider myself truthful, a woman of faith, integrity, curiosity. And as both clergy (myself) and a preacher’s wife, I have necessarily held the tensions between public and private truths in civic/congregational Christianity for decades now. Kierkegaard (via Fred Craddock) has helped me here: “Some things true when whispered become false when shouted.” I’ve seen and experienced Truth wielded as a weapon by so many of my Christian siblings (particularly if they’re white) that I go quiet when any of us speaks passionately about the Truth, protecting or litigating the Truth. Truths shouted or even “spun” in social/news media outlets show desire for power, to me, usually power-over. Jesus was disinterested in that, so I also try to be. This often puts me at odds with more traditionalist siblings, grieving/refusing grief for cherished things being lost, but also progressive siblings, outraged I do not share in militant pursuits of justice.

Then last night, a writing prompt: I know this to be true…


I went tharn, frozen inside, like a rabbit facing down a hrududu on the road.


Can I even answer that aloud anymore, disregarding social risk? Is it even worthwhile, possible, without participating in the falsifying shouts?


Last night I began, haltingly. And I was pleasantly surprised… Curious… Feeling Invited…


I guess I desire a life that is holy…enough to risk it.


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