The invitation of grace
Toward the end of his life, Bruce had an advanced case of Parkinson’s. One of the symptoms is particularly disconcerting. Sometimes when Bruce sees a line on the floor (perhaps because his eyes are cast down, watching his feet, fearing a loss of balance?), he stops, immobilized, because he “sees” that line as a wall. He literally, does not (or cannot) move.
A friend tells the story of a ride in an elevator with Bruce and Bruce’s wife Hazel. The doors open. My friend and the wife exit the elevator. Bruce walks (with his walker) toward the open doors, but sees only the line, or space, that separates the elevator from the building floor. He stops. In his “mind”, he sees only “a wall”—an impediment.
Hazel speaks, “Bruce. Look at me. Bruce. Look up at me. Look at my eyes. Now take one step.”
Bruce looks up, trusts who he sees, and steps slowly out of the elevator.
I cannot imagine Parkinson’s, or the courage it takes to face and to battle such a debilitating and often humiliating disease. But all of us know what it is like to feel stuck, or stymied, or (for reasons we don’t even understand) stopped. There are times when we are just plain afraid to take another step. Times when we “shut down”. Our “limitation” or fear is greater than our ability to move forward. Even with the best of intentions or faith, we see only a wall.
When this happens to me, as it did recently, I am reluctant to tell anyone. Because, after all, “Big boys don’t show any weakness.” I’ve got a dozen reasons why I give into my “limitations”, and none of them have to do with me. Like the old parable, “The girl who can’t dance says the band can’t play.”
But I’m a storyteller, and I love stories that ignite, hearten and uplift. Stories make space for healing, passion, and grace. And the exquisite beauty even in fragile things. To hear the invitation, “Look at my eyes. Now take one step”, no longer confined by what we see as limitations.
My confession is that grace has never been an easy gift for me to receive. A conviction reenforced by an image of God who frowned (literally) on my fault-lines (limitations, deficiencies, weaknesses). It’s no surprise that I internalized that limitations and they alone, measured my value (and my well-being).
This is where shame takes root.
And we feed shame with fear.
Charlotte Kasl’s reminder, “Shame is essentially the degree to which you mistake your labels for your identity. If you draw your labels into the core of yourself, you can no longer see the center.”
Speaking of stories and the invitation of grace. When a woman in a certain African tribe knows she is pregnant, she goes out into the wilderness to pray, and listen until she hears the song of the child she bears. This tribe recognizes that every soul has its own vibration, expressing its unique flavor and purpose. Then the mother to be teaches the song to the other members of the tribe.
The tribe sings the song to the child at birth.
They sing when the child becomes an adolescent, when the adult is married, and at the time of parting and death.
But there is one other occasion when the villagers sing this song. If at any time during his (or her) life, the person causes suffering to another member of the tribe, they gather in a circle and set him (or her) in the center. They sing the song, to remind them not of the wrong done, but of their own beauty and potential. When a child loses the way, it is love and not punishment that brings the lost one home.
When we buy the label, we buy the script, and we forget our song. Music (the gift of grace) unlocks the heart, and we are restored (take a step) to our self.
I cannot tell you your song. But I can tell you this: you have one.
Count on it. And if you sit still, you may hear it.
It is the song that reminds us we are beautiful, when we feel ugly.
It is the song that tells us we are whole, when we feel broken.
It is the song that gives us the power to dance, even when we feel shattered.
It is the song that allows us to take a step when we feel stuck, or shut down.
“Look at my eyes. Now take one step.”
This same voice invited Peter (full of fear) out of the boat, onto a stormy sea, “Be not afraid. Look at me. Now take one step.” Jesus didn’t ask Peter to wait until he was “unafraid,” or had it all figured out. He invited him to risk, and embrace this life, even with the imperfections and limitations, even knowing sooner or later, he’d sink.
That’s why it is important that we don’t put grace in the creed category, something requiring mental ascent. You see, Hazel didn’t say, “Bruce, do you believe?” She said, “Bruce, Look at me.”
When we make this space (hear the music of grace), it touches something much deeper than the right advice (or belief). We literally, “love someone into existence.”
Yes. And here’s the deal: that “someone” you love into existence, may be you.
I have an idea: This week, let us choose to eliminate the question, “What did you accomplish today?” It makes my head spin, as I’m never sure if I get the answer right. Instead, I hope that somewhere we hear the voice, “Look at me. You are valued. You are held. And you are loved.”
And I hope that, like Bruce, it will be enough to say, “Today, I took one step.”
I enjoyed a great article this week about the benefits of watching the sun rise or sunset. Yes, it is beautiful, but even better, it may also boost your wellbeing, according to recent research. I think I could have told you that. Just saying’. Awe has always been the perfect “soil” to grow emotional health.
Quote for our week…
Dear God, People around us are hurting and struggling. We can see it and we can feel it. Maybe we are even hurting inside ourselves. Please help us find a way to listen to one another, nurture one another, and recognize that our individual suffering leads to collective suffering. Help us heal together. Amen. Maria Shriver
Today’s Photo Credit: “Hi Terry, We had an extraordinarily beautiful day yesterday on the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, especially for April. The driftwood pictured here is not just dead wood, but an intricate and beautiful work of divine sculpture. I couldn’t decide which one to send because the color of the sky against the wood is awe-inspiring. Enjoy.” Nancy O’Shaughnessy… Thank you Nancy… Thank you to all, keep sending your photos… send to terryhershey.com
Yes, your gift makes a difference… Donation = Love…
Help make Sabbath Moment possible. I write SM because I want to live with a soft heart; to create a place for sanctuary, empathy, inclusion, compassion and kindness… a space where we are refueled to make a difference. SM remains free.
(NEW address by check: PO Box 65336, Port Ludlow, WA 98365
NEW Book – Stand Still: finding balance when the world turns upside down
NEW Audio SM… Enjoy — Conscious of our treasures
Join us every Wednesday… Audio Sabbath Moment
Letters that do my heart good…
–Terry, Congrats and Happy Anniversary on your ordination–A day Late. I had one of those days yesterday and was not able to read Sabbath Moment until this morning. And yes, you are so right–“Ministry is about being real.” I have had the privilege of serving many many clergy over my many years of volunteer work within the church and you are spot one–it is the clergy that can be real that are most effective. You indeed are one who is real and as a result are able to teach and pass on much good. May you have a blessed year ahead and many more to come. Paul
–Happy Anniversary, Terry. I am grateful for your ministry and your daily reminders that life is too short to get stuck in the “he owes me…” How wonderful you were ordained on your dad’s birthday. I found the second year after my dad died was harder than the first, as I had to figure out how to go on without him. The first year a missed his presence. May you find comfort and peace as this year unfolds. Blessings, Pat
–Hi Terry: Congratulations on your ordination anniversary. But understand the conflict with your father’s death. You have a great gift for writing about issues that affect all of us. Thank you! I look forward to Sabbath Moment every day. Best regards, Rosemary
–Congrats on 44 years and a ministry that has far expanded beyond even your dreams. So sorry for those fragile flowers but more for homeless caught in what sounded like a hopeless day in the middle of Easter hope. Blessings. Wish I was there to give you a hug and hear more about that brick mason father of yours. Your friend among so many. Flip from PLU and 87 degree Minnesota.
–Terry–This morning my younger daughter sent a text to her sister. The younger one is out here visiting us in Tucson; she and her husband were sitting on the “back porch” of their RV at a campground. She wrote: “This moment is just about perfect.”—and included several emojis… I was instantly reminded of that theme of yours, about the Sacrament of the Moment. Peace, Bob
POEMS AND PRAYERS
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”
doesn’t make any sense.
Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi – 13th century
When Someone Deeply Listens to You
When someone deeply listens to you
it is like holding out a dented cup
you’ve had since childhood
and watching it fill up with
cold, fresh water.
When it balances on top of the brim,
you are understood.
When it overflows and touches your skin,
you are loved.
When someone deeply listens to you
the room where you stay
starts a new life
and the place where you wrote
your first poem
begins to glow in your mind’s eye.
It is as if gold has been discovered!
When someone deeply listens to you
your barefeet are on the earth
and a beloved land that seemed distant
is now at home within you.
As the light of dawn awakens earth’s creatures
and stirs into song the birds of the morning
so may I be brought to life this day.
Rising to see the light
to hear the wind
to smell the fragrance of what grows from the ground
to taste its fruit
and touch its textures
so may my inner senses be awakened to you
so may my senses be awakened to you, O God.