Resistance. Resilience. Rise.
By Rev. Jacqueline Lewis, Ph.D.
When I was younger, I experienced Lent as a sorrowful time; I’d spend many days ruminating on the death of Christ, and think about my own death, of sure-to-come deaths of my parents, and the deaths of my ancestors. I’d be sad, and somewhat comforted by the promise of resurrection. Now, I have come to understand that from the day we are born, the day we are liberated from the amniotic space of the womb, we take a breath and we begin to die. We fill the room with our first cries, and we are journeying toward death. There is no way to avoid that. So, my sense of Lent has shifted to a journey toward life. It is a time of spiritual reflection, a journey toward our best, most authentic, filled-with-Spirit self. It is a quest for the self, a quest for life.
What is that authentic self like? I am not quite sure, but I feel like I am in a birth canal. I feel pushed, and squeezed, and a little bit traumatized. I watch the news and feel sad and frustrated. Then I go to Twitter and I see all of the pop-up love and organizing and I feel hopeful. Sometimes I feel a strong sense of disequilibrium. At other times, I am quite simply euphoric, like I am in the space of that super-human strength women talk about during childbirth. What I am giving birth to, thanks to all of the forces bearing upon me, is myself, thanks be to God.
My friend and director of the Revolutionary Love Project, Valarie Kaur, suggests our nation is in a birth canal. That these crazy times are not about the “darkness of the tomb…but the darkness of the womb.” I know she is right. We are all being born; we are all becoming. We as a people are discovering what we are made of, who we will be, who we are called to be. The Apostle Paul suggested that all of creation is waiting like a mother in childbirth, waiting to see the children of God be revealed. (Romans 8:19-39). I LOVE that!!
I believe these times are about all of us being pushed to discover who we truly are. The current cultural context demands self-examination; it requires conversation partners—friends, pastors, therapists, parents, siblings, lovers—and a space to say, “Can you believe this?!?” both about the terrible, awful things AND about the ways we as a people are witnessing folk resisting and loving their way forward. We as a nation are being re-born, pushed to a new place.
What if our Lenten journey is about resilience, resistance, and rising? What if we look squarely at what must die: Oppressive systems of injustice; greed and avarice; a broken sense of entitlement and exceptionalism, for example. What if we imagine these tough times as the dying of those things and the birthing of God’s plan for a healed and whole world?
Let us make our Lenten journey about shedding things, giving up useless things, bad habits, old coping mechanisms. Let’s get free to try on new ways of thinking, of living, of being. Let’s leave the placenta that grew us in the womb, and emerge with fresh new vision, new expectations, new hope. Let’s use Lent to take a deep breath of Spirit and emerge from the birth canal with a primal prayer, “Here I am! Thank you Spirit/Breath for animating me. I am here.” Our own re-birth can help birth a nation that shares the values of the Reign of God. Together, we can proclaim, “We are here; we’re here for all of us!”
Lent is a journey to the Love Revolution in which our best selves are revealed, and our more perfect union is forged. As we go deep and pay attention, even in hot-mess times, we can fuel our resistance with love; we can celebrate our resilience. And we will rise.
Toward the love revolution,
Middle Church, The Middle Project, the Revolutionary Love Project and Auburn Seminary will host the 11th national conference in the birthing of a multiracial, inter-religious movement for love and justice. Revolutionary Love: Disruptive Ethics to Dismantle Racism is April 28-30 at Middle Collegiate Church in Manhattan. Featured speakers include Jaqueline Lewis, Valarie Kaur, William Barber, Brian McLaren, Traci Blackmon, Genesis Be, Shaun King, and BETTY, to help you and others engage in the work of revolution. You MUST come to this conference! Revolutionary Love is gestating at the conference. A Love Revolution is being born in the pushing and shoving and stress of these days.
The Rev. Jaqueline Lewis, Ph.D. is Senior Pastor of Middle Collegiate Church and Executive Director, The Middle Project, Inc.