Day 88: Strange Dance Partners
A brief exchange from Sunday has been fluttering around in my awareness this week, affirmation and relevance as dance partners that then seemed to invite judgment and disdain onto the dance-floor. Can one graciously receive words of affirmation when they are accompanied by words or actions that contradict precisely what was supposedly being affirmed? Let me explain…
An older woman approached me on the sanctuary floor, intent upon speaking with me after my sermon. The gist of the message—or medicine—I was trying to share was get curious, slow down, to feel the pain around you—your own and others—while learning how to trust the divine order of things, to surrender. It was more call&response sung-prayer moments of ‘entering in’ than a traditional proclamation of the Word, as seminaries consider it. At least my formative seminary, Princeton. Clearly, this woman was moved, opened, touched. I am glad.
With all the urgency energy in her, she launched into an affirmation of the sermon for its relevance, for its speaking truth in love. Deep bow. I receive. These dance partners seemed graceful on the floor together.
Except all the urgency energy in her also brought a tirade of frustration, judgment and disdain for all those who are not living Christianity “as it ought to be lived.” All those who are Christian in name, she said, but not heart. All those who are… I cannot even remember all the categories she employed in her frustration. These partners blustering onto the dance-floor felt out of step, somehow. Ironic. Contradictory. Uncomfortable.
I unconsciously slipped into professor mode to begin to mirror a softness of heart, yes, even toward them. She grew even more frustrated and spoke more loudly. I eventually desisted, quietly receiving what else she had to say “in thanksgiving for all I had offered.”
This is the quatrain-dance in which I don’t know the steps, which seems to get orchestrated by everything around us, not before or within us. I appreciated her affirmation. I’m glad she experienced our time together as relevant. But what was she hearing, exactly? Doesn’t trusting the divine order of things free you from all that urgency, from the throes of judgment so easy to wield? Doesn’t having empathy for all those I named—Jayland Walker, Bobby Crimo, police officers (unnamed), woman having an abortion—also mean having empathy for all of them, whoever they may be, in some limited way?
Another strong link in the argument about preaching… It’s a flash in the pan. It could be gold if you spent time with it, were patient and persistent in a container to hold it. More probably, it’s fool’s gold. Iron pyrite. Is that good for any soul-nourishment? Is it a step on the way to real gold?
I know I’m not responsible for this woman’s soul-journeying, nor do I know what she needs. But the irony was strong. The hunger to be heard/seen, when met, can bring more of the wound to the surface, perhaps? Wondering…