home: month 1

Read the full series on home here.


month 1 – by M Jade Kaiser

Maybe journey is not so much a journey ahead, or a journey into space, but a journey into presence. – Nelle Morton, 1985

I was first introduced to the work of feminist theologian Nelle Morton in seminary in 2011. I was in my second year of three and smack in the middle of a wild unspooling of my worldviews. Every new perspective introduced felt like an opportunity to come a little closer to home – to myself, divinity, others. I was being changed by the offerings of those theologians, activists, mystics, and others whose perspectives so differed from what I had yet encountered. Life was blossoming anew in and around me and I was insatiable. Liberation, womanist, feminist, queer, mujerista, eco, global perspectives – all and each portals to a more freeing existence, mine and others. Coming out. Finding my voice. Unlearning whiteness. Learning feeling and solidarity.

At the time, I was also encountering the early meaning of the greek word for repentance (metanoia): A turning. A reorientation. A change in direction. In shedding my prior theologies and ethics, I resonated with the idea of an ideological U-Turn on the linear spectrum of morality.

In the midst of all, I remember fondly when a beloved professor shared Morton’s wise words with me in the context of a conversation of gender and community, relationship and liberation: “the journey is home,” she said.

I was struck by the phrase. It made me feel something. But I didn’t really understand it – even  with all my exuberant curiosity, and my eager striving. It landed as another signpost on the path of this new direction. I felt I had been pointed in the wrong direction for so long that I was sprinting toward correction. Surely, home was right around the corner now. The irony was entirely lost on me. (The same professor later mentioned, “you journey fast.”)

With a side of good humor, I now recognize my persistent insatiability can impede the very thing I’m after. Over the last 11 years I have encountered home many times. Religious spaces, relationships, movements, identities, and philosophies. But eventually, the feeling of home is troubled – compromised by inevitable constraints, frictions, changes, or the impacts of other forces. “Will I ever reach home,” my younger self would wonder. Systems, theologies, and ideologies of domination – whiteness and patriarchy among others – construct insidious fantasies of promised lands to which we can arrive and find all the messes of existence properly tidied, tended, and welcoming us into peace. If only we, individually, work hard enough to get there. In the midst of these instigators’ wreckage that strain life and lives, who wouldn’t long for such a place of resolve?

Bayo Akomolafe writes of this longing to and for his young daughter: “I wish I could offer you this story of arrival, a tale of a city in the horizons with which you could warm your weary bones made hard and brittle by cold, long pilgrimages. A map to teach you how to go, why to go, when to go, and what to look for when the place you seek stretches unforgivingly in the taunting distance… But I can’t.”

Over the years, Morton’s words have stuck with me and worked on me. As has life. And the Sacred. And each holy encounter of mistakes and forgiveness, struggle and solidarity, love and conflict along the way. I am no longer sprinting down the road in an opposite direction with the sense that there is somewhere in which I am due to finally ‘arrive.’ Still insatiable, but less in pursuit of Truth and more in the delight of encountering the multitudes of wisdoms that surround. Still, yes, queer ones and creaturely ones, abolitionist and otherwise.

I am unlearning the compulsion to chase down what is already promised and provided, fleeting and fluid as it is. “Home is such a slippery concept,” writes Akomolafe. “She misbehaves. She shrinks and then vanishes in the tightening grip of your efforts to own here. Maybe there are no words to finally rope her in…Surrender to the journey – in the ways only you know how to.”

I have been practicing how to surrender the concept of a final state of a bodymindspirit that is ‘whole,’ or ‘healed,’ ‘uncomplicated’ or ‘entirely well,’’ aiming instead to practice listening, and loving, and paying respectful attention to all that is aching to live. Surrendering expectations of relationships that align seamlessly, movements that ‘get it all right,’ philosophies with all the answers, or gods of perfect resolutions. Surrendering, too, the cold demands of an elusive worth – mine or others – attained through perfection, proof, or productivity. There are so many sacred offerings in the present, this present, beckoning us, welcoming us, inviting us to encounter the journey as home.

 


Rev. M Jade Kaiser (they/them) is co-founder and co-director of enfleshed. M wonders, wrestles, and works in the places where spirituality, activism, culture(s), and creativity entangle. Over the last decade, they have had the pleasure of collaborating and working in spaces and movements of shared longing and action such as Texas Freedom Network, Faith in Harm Reduction, SURJ, UmForward, Reconciling Ministries Network, ONE Northside, and other collectives of organizers, religious communities, and creators. In their spare time, they seek out creaturely encounters and enjoy working with stained glass.

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