Ruptures and openings, loss and possibilities

By Rev. Anna Blaedel

This week I began my 40th trip around the sun.

For years now I have celebrated my birthday in whatever random city is hosting the annual American Academy of Religion meeting, celebrating again with family when we gather for Thanksgiving (The genocidal untruth of which opens instead to Truthsgiving). I have come to savor this rhythm, and the opportunity to celebrate my birthday with so many beloveds scattered far and wide. This year, of course, like so much, was different. AAR was cancelled, as it needed to be. My family is not gathering, the only wise and responsible decision, but so filled with loss, too. So many rhythms of our shared life have ruptured. So many needs are unmet. So much loss and longing and love are swirling–in our hearts, in our homes, in our streets, in our collective life–with sharpness and depth.

Struggling to find our way through so much disorienting disruption, may we remember:

Where there is rupture, there is opening.
A crack where sacred darkness mingles with holy illumination.
An opening for truth to emerge, revealed.
A moment when breath and Spirit dance with Wisdom.
An invitation into possibilities to become otherwise.

Alexis Pauline Gumbs invites us to practice slowing down as “a strategic intervention in a world on speed, and an appropriate response to the exact urgencies that make us feel we cannot slow down.”

Usually a frenzy of activity, this year my birthday became an opportunity to pause. To slow down. To savor the presence of my beloved, even as I felt the absence and distance of other beloveds. To sit with and meditate on the last year, and the coming year, and the present moment–the gifts, losses, possibilities, and connections constituting this “one wild and precious life.” (Mary Oliver) My beloved invited me to pause and consider three questions, that I want to extend to you:

What are you proud of?
What have you experienced, that you are grateful for?
What have you learned?

Even unchosen ruptures can draw us toward truth, and transformation, and life.

A college student asked, last week, where I find courage when I’m scared, and strength when I’m struggling. The truths I named also reveal how I encounter divinity, enfleshed:

The people around me, those I recognize as kin, as beloveds, as friends, as elders, as co-conspirators.
The trees, and the deep breaths they offer. The sky, and her expansive beauty. The soil, and the mycelial networks composting decay into nutrient-rich life.
The wise truths uttered in poems and stories and songs and manifestos and dreams, offered by those who have “made a way out of no way,” those who have dreamed wildly and loved deeply, who have imagined and coaxed life even from the ruins of destruction or despair.

Courage is a cultivated pattern, practiced slowly, and ongoingly. We grow strong by tending life’s ruptures with patience, and sustained care.

Poet and beloved Christina Hutchins offered these lines, on my birthday:

“Life is propositioning us all the time.
Like you, I am living a lifetime of love and losses.”

What propositions do you feel, when you pause, and breathe, and listen into “the heaving breath of the very earth,” the lifebreath “carrying along the prayer of all living things?” How do you turn your attention toward this still more present tapestry of life, this entangled aliveness?

As we enter this season–so full of unchosen ruptures, of lifetimes of love and loss–what invitations might emerge, what possibilities might materialize, what truths might be revealed, if we linger, and slow down, and pause? Love and loss. Pain and healing. Rupture and repair.  Divinity coming to dwell. Propositioning us, all the time.

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Rev. Anna Blaedel is theologian-in-residence at enfleshed. They bring an attentiveness to the intersections of academic, activist, and ecclesial engagement. Anna nourishes students through campus ministry for the University of Iowa Wesley Center and is enrolled in a PhD program in Theological and Philosophical Studies at Drew University’s Graduate Division.

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