I haven’t seen Wandavision, and truth be told, I know very little about the show. But over the weekend, I saw a number of friends share a quote from the show that touched them deeply. While scrolling through Facebook and Twitter, I kept seeing it. Even though I don’t know the full context of the quote, I found it to be meaningful too. It’s this question:
“What is grief, if not love persevering?”
A professor once said to me, “Grief is the price tag for loving.” I heard that meaningfully. Love involves risk, and grief is part of that risk. But grief is also a form of love itself. It’s love that remains. It’s love that continues.
Grief is love persevering.
It’s love that accompanies us after we’ve endured a loss or major change. It’s also a form of love that can lead us into living. It’s love that can love-forward and create more space for lived-love, even as it holds space for the past. It can take many forms. It can sustain. At times, it can even renew.
Image Description: A Ben Montero cartoon, which can be found here. 4 slides: This yellow bird really loves treats! “Do we get treats?” he asks, as a newborn, as a kiddo walking into school for the first time, on the first day on the job and… well, popping out of the casket.
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I’m doggysitting this weekend and thoroughly enjoying it. My buddy and I took a nice walk on a much-warmer-than-it-has-been, sunny day with a very blue sky. I enjoyed watching our shadows as we walked.
Sometimes, I ponder what life will be like after the pandemic. I don’t want to take for granted what it means to be able to gather together. I think even the smallest forms of connection will bring deep gratitude. This era of time has included many deep difficulties in our collective life, and I’ve been feeling that a bit more acutely as we near the one year anniversary of lockdown. But while walking, I also wondered what I might miss from this period of time. I also wondered if there were things I shouldn’t take for granted right now.
I enjoyed seeing the sun and even feeling it a bit. I enjoyed the blue sky. I thought about these accompanying me in some way. St. Francis used to address forms of nature as friends. Kindred, even. Brother Sun, Sister Moon, he would say.
I decided to be with these and let them be with me. I don’t want to take them for granted either.
I’m grateful to invite Taylor Murray to be guest blogger on Smuggling Grace. I love the phrase that she shares in this piece below, as well as her reflections upon it.
Lifts Us All
I went to my weekly spiritual gathering this Saturday. It was our last one in a series we started seven weeks ago. We have been coming together, as a group of spiritually-curious 20s year olds, and trying to connect with our inner spirits. It’s been really powerful.
This week to celebrate our work and the work left to be done, we each were asked to share our intention of what we want to work on with Spirit in the weeks to come. At the end of each intention Angie, our leader, would say “We honor your intention, it lifts us all.”
I fell head over heels for that phrase. It lifts us all, it lifts us all. Your growth and intention lifts us all.
This mindset is countercultural. Our capitalist society says that another’s success, another’s happiness and nourishment is threatening to our own. It even convinces us that their success is a success stolen from us, their achievement should be ours. We are taught to be angry about other people’s betterment because it means we are failing.
But Angie brought abundance that day, and she could do that with ease because we were interacting not on a physical plane but a spiritual one. There is no limit to the amount of love you can give or receive, and the more someone else has, the more you will get because they have more to give to you. Your abundance of love lifts us all. Your abundance of joy lifts us all. Your wisdom lifts us all.
I carry this phrase in my back pocket now. When I used to see someone succeed, heat would gurgle in my body as I sunk into the depths of shame.
They stole that from you, my mind says. You deserve it more.
You don’t work hard enough. You are undeserving of amazing things.
My mind is expertly able to deprecate myself while inflating my ego, both forcing me down into a dangerous part of myself that I wish was not a part of me.
Today, my friend got a research position with an amazing professor we both adore. Immediately, while my fingers were typing over-the-top congratulations, my heart started to turn to the darkness in me. I could feel it turning. But out of nowhere a light switch flicked on as I remembered: her betterment lifts us all. It lifts me too. I am connected to her, and the more opportunities she has to expose herself to this amazing work, the more I will be connected with it and will learn from it.
It lifts us all.
I offer this to you now, when you feel the shame wash over you. You may have envy like a mold growing inside you, like I have for the past 20 years. If so, let the knowledge that the string that pulls others up is tied to you, and up you go with it.
Taylor is a student at the University of Michigan, currently taking a semester off from her computer science studies. She is the co-founder and president of Tech for Social Good a student org creating critical conversations about technology and society. She is also a self-described renaissance woman and currently is learning Korean, thinking about communal grieving, and combatting grind culture. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo Credit: Carson Smith. Hans Honschar is an artist who leaves encouraging chalk messages for people to discover throughout the neighborhoods of New York City. This says, “fulfill your calling, HHNY.”
“How do we live and work as people who are connected to our whole selves?”
This was the very excellent question someone asked me this week.
Of course, none of us has a full, definitive answer to a question as large and expansive as that one, but it’s the kind of question that can sit with us for a while. Maybe it’s the kind of question that asks good questions of us:
What is wholeness? Who are we called to be, and how do we partner our deep-seated callings with the callings of others? How do we embrace our vulnerabilities? How do we give voice to our vulnerabilities and allow them to provide leadership as strengths? How do we give and receive care in relationship and community? How do we cultivate space for healing and wholeness — for ourselves? alongside others? How do we lead with our unique gifts? How do we open ourselves to a sense of the whole within our life and work, even if we have only a glimmer of understanding that we are connected to a vision and sense of mutuality much larger than ourselves alone?
When this expansive question at the top came up (which has now offered a cascade of questions) the two of us were talking about vocation and calling and what it’s like to bring our fullest, particular selves to our living and our work. This was a meaningful conversation that has stayed with me throughout the week.
Today, as I ponder this conversation and these questions, I’d like to place the writings of two authors side by side.
Richard Rohr talks about vocation and calling as the Deep Yes:
“The doctrine of haecceity is saying that we come to universal meaning deeply and rightly through the unique and ordinary, not the other way around, which is the great danger of all the ideologies (overarching and universal explanations) that have plagued our world in the last century. Everything in the universe is a holon and a fractal, where the part replicates the whole. Go deep in any one place and we will meet all places where the divine image is present.”
“In the moments of insecurity and crisis, ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ don’t really help; they just increase the shame, guilt, pressure, and likelihood of backsliding. It’s the deep ‘yeses’ that carry you through. Focusing on something you absolutely believe in, that you’re committed to, will help you wait it out.”*
MaryAnn McKibben Dana has written a great deal about the concept of Yes-And in improv, applying that vision to our daily living. She has published a book entitled, God, Improv, and the Art of Living. She also has a blog, and she’s written a piece called, The Joy of Yes-And. I recommend reading all of it. She talks about embracing our limitations and making choices about what is most important to us:
“But too often, our culture looks at people who take a step back in terms of what is lost. Maybe Ohashi will not end up at the Olympics as a result of her choice… [See the piece for this story.] But it’s clear from her performance how much has been gained.
“Sure, sometimes Yes-And is a process of sheer addition, and making it work imperfectly and beautifully. But other times – maybe more often – it’s about subtraction. Clarification. Deepening.”
What does it mean to practice a Deep Yes-And?
There are many ways to answer that question, of course, but I think it leads us back to this question:
“How do we live and work as people who are connected to our whole selves?”
We make the main calling the main calling, whatever that may be for us. We choose it deeply, even as it is most readily choosing us.
But we don’t have this all figured out. How could we? It’s all in process, and we never arrive fully. We just keep adding our yes to the Deep Yes that beckons us, little by little, moment by moment.
Jesus came up out of the water and was greeted by very the voice of God.
After Jesus was baptized by his cousin John in the waters of the Jordan River, he was immediately immersed in words of favor from God. The story of Jesus’ baptism depicts the heavens opening, and the Holy Spirit descending upon him in bodily form like a dove. Then, with great love, the voice from the heavens declares,
“You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
This voice was a declaration, a proclamation, and an affirmation of Who Jesus Is.
The divine voice was a recognition of Jesus’ deepest identity and calling. The moment must have felt tremendous.
But then, the story takes a sudden, dramatic turn.
Luke, the great storyteller of his Gospel says, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.”
There is very little time to revel in the glory of that holy affirmation. Instead, Jesus enters the wilderness and a time of testing. Instead, Jesus encounters another voice. And he has been led to the wilderness by the Spirit, the very Spirit that descended upon him like a dove.
It is a reminder that the life of faith is full and freeing, but it’s not always easy. In fact, the life of faith often involves a process of claiming truths found in God’s loving voice and allowing them to forge our identity. Sometimes, this takes place even the midst of challenge, crisis, and pain.
Jesus had this kind of experience in the wilderness.
The Epistle to the Hebrews says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.” He knows challenge, crisis, and pain.
Jesus had this kind of experience in the wilderness.
The wilderness. . . Jesus meets a different voice in that place. For forty days, he was tested in the wilderness by the devil. The devil. . .? Who is this one? And what kind of voice?
When we ponder this voice called the devil, we might imagine an embodied person or creature red with a pitchfork and cloven hooves. But this is the devil of art, movies, and cartoons.
The scriptures occasionally portray this devil as a spiritual being, but above all, ‘the devil’ seems to be a destructive voice. At times, this voice is personified, but it’s helpful to remember that ‘the devil’ is not capitalized in this story. In other words, ‘Devil ‘is not the name of a being. ‘Satan’ is not a name either. The Hebrew scriptures refer to ‘the satan’ — the Hebrew is ha-satan — and it means ‘the accuser’ or ‘the adversary.’
The accuser and adversary in the wilderness with Jesus is not the caricatured Satan of art, movies, and cartoons. But that does not diminish the destructiveness of this voice. It is a devastating voice. For Jesus, this voice — ha-satan, the accuser, the adversary — seems to call into question what it means to be God’s Son. This voice seems to call into question what kind of Son Jesus should be.
This voice questions Jesus’ deepest identity and calling.
But Jesus will endure this challenge and is withstand it. The Spirit led him into the wilderness, but the story also begins with the fullness of the Spirit:
Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. . . The Spirit is with Jesus, and The Spirit is within Jesus. For forty days and nights, he was tempted by the accuser. For forty days and nights, he was empowered by the Holy Spirit to claim the truths found in God’s loving voice, and allow them to forge his identity.
This voice called the devil questions Jesus’ identity as he places security and power before him. . .
Security. “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus replies, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’”
Power. “To you, I will give all the kingdoms of the world with their glory and all their authority. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus replies, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.”
Security. “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus replies, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Do not put the Lord your God to the test. . . If you are the Son of God. . .? Since he is the Son of God, Jesus relies on the Holy Spirit, as it is both with him and within him. The experience in the wilderness is challenging and painful, but Jesus claims the truths found in God’s loving voice, and allows them to form his identity.
Jesus withstands this alternative voice, this destructive voice of the accuser. The story finishes with the devil departing: “When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.” Trouble is not over for Jesus, but he has a greater understanding of Who He Is and how he is called to serve.
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.” He knows challenge, crisis, and pain.
Jesus knows challenge, crisis, and pain. Jesus claims the truths found in God’s loving voice, and allows them to form his identity. “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
Jesus allows this experience in the wilderness to form his identity too, for he knows even more what kind of Son he is called to be. He is called to walk with us in kinship, He is called to walk with us toward solidarity.
And that is exactly what he does. Jesus turns away from security, and he turns away from power. Instead, he turns toward us, and most especially, Jesus turns toward human beings who are marginalized, downtrodden, and outcast.
The story continues. Luke, the great storyteller of his Gospel, says, “Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Today, we see one who is filled with the Holy Spirit. Today, we see one who knows challenge, crisis, and pain. Today, we see one who knows what kind of Son he will be. Today, we see one who chooses to walk with us in solidarity.
So where are we today? Today, are we in challenge, crisis, or pain? Today, have we forgotten God’s love for the poor, the captives, and the oppressed? Today, from our doubts, do we add to the voice of the accuser, “If you are the Son of God. . .”? Today, do we need to learn once more that Jesus walks in solidarity with us?
If so, may we all hear this good news. . .
For us,Jesus rose from the water and heard, “You are my Son, the Beloved; With you I am well pleased.” With us, Jesus claimed the truths of God’s loving voice, and allowed them to forge his identity.
For us, Jesus entered the wilderness and was tempted for forty days. With us, Jesus turned away from security and power and walked toward us in solidarity.
For us, Jesus traveled to the synagogues and spoke words of power. With us, Jesus dedicated his life to the marginalized, downtrodden, and oppressed.
Today, through his life, we hear his voice toward us, “You are God’s child, the Beloved; With you, God is well pleased.”
Today, will we claim the truths found in God’s loving voice, and allow them to forge our identity? Today, will we follow the one who goes before us, and live our lives in solidarity with others?