Scars and Wounds and Now

How can you tell if something is a scar or an open wound?

I mean, on the body it can be easier to make that assessment. Right now my left side is stitched up from some minor surgery last week. We took the bandage off last night for the first time. Looks normal, stitching in tact, all that jazz.

It will be a scar in a few weeks, a scar that will remind me to wear sunscreen with greater diligence. No need to flirt with skin cancer any longer; I’ve been to that dance and, it appears, have been able to exit without needing my ticket punched.

But this morning I’ve been reflecting on scars and wounds, bodily and otherwise. I’m reflecting on it because I’m in the final stages of getting my certification as a professional coach with an emphasis on walking with people through grief, through the aftermath of a death of some sort (relative, job, dream, etc), and active dying. And this lingering pandemic, festering, as it is, has made this certification all quite timely.

When it comes to emotional and spiritual trauma, I think one way you can tell if it’s a scar or a wound is by having pressure applied to it and waiting for the “ouch.”

I’ve seen, and experienced personally, wounds of loneliness call forth an “ouch” in these days.

I’ve seen, and experienced personally, wounds of partisanship call forth an “ouch” in these days.

Wounds around fatigue. Balance. Job insecurity. Fear of the unknown, both rational and irrational. Worry around safety of family members and loved ones. Relationship strains and troubles.

Lots of ouches.

The first step to turning a wound into a scar is tending to it. See, that’s the hard part, right? We’re never quite sure where a wound is sometimes, because we really haven’t looked at it closely in a while. We just assume it’s healed, or healing, or…

Have you looked in a bit? Where is the ouch for you?

Poet Nayyirah Waheed is all about tending to the wounds of life. “Rub honey on it,” she often writes in her short, but shocking, lines.

Rub honey on it.

Tending to our wounds is more than just looking at them. This past weekend I looked at an errant Nerf dart laying in our hallway a number of times, thinking at each pass, “Someone should pick that up…” until yesterday that someone became me (and it should have always been me, right?).

We look at things all the time without doing anything about them.

We look at wounds all the time without rubbing any honey on it.

It stings to do that work, by the way. Healing often hurts a bit.

But it has to happen for a scar to form.

Scars say “I’ve been there,” which, for a world of wounded people, is a wonderful gift and sign of grace. Open festering wounds, of which there are many, don’t usually allow someone to help another person with the same wound, heal.

But a scar?

Well, in this pandemic, in these days, I’m trying to look at the wounds I have, and rub some honey on them.

So, be honest, don’t let this crisis go to waste: where is the ouch?

There’s Just Something About Mary

Madonna-of-Częstochowa

“When you want to get in good with someone,” my father said, “you sometimes talk to their parents. Usually their mom.”

This was the response I got when I asked my father why some Christians speak to Mary or pray to Mary. Now, in my tradition that wasn’t our practice, but it made sense to me. If Jesus wasn’t answering the Divine phone, or if you weren’t sure you even had permission to make the call, his mother may lend you her ear, right?

While my Lutheran tradition doesn’t practice this piety, we have a long, though often hidden, tradition of holding Mary, the Mother of Our Lord in high esteem. Luther himself was known to lift her up as a model of saintliness. The “Theotokos,” the “God-Bearer,” a ship that carried the Christ across the sea of the cosmos…that deserves some reverence and a heartfelt nod, right?

But even apart from her role in history, mothering and motherhood are essential pieces of the fabric of our communal lives.

I’ve had many mothers, by the way. I say that not to dismiss my own biological mother; far from it! I say it more to acknowledge that the ways we mother each other, distinct from giving birth, are essential pieces of care that we extend in this world. The mothers of my friends often watched out for me, provided me with things I needed, tended my wounds and provided care when my own mother was working or not in proximity.

An upper-classman at my university, a young man in the same field of study, would have me over for tea and honey to see how I was doing on a regular basis. He took me under his wing in many ways, mothering me while I was 800 miles away from my biological family.

We are at our best when we mother one another.

And Mary, in her role in the Divine drama, was not only the mother of the Christ, following him all the way to his deathbed (like any parent worth their salt), but also the mother of humanity, on the lips of so many in their hour of need.

When George Floyd called out for his mother, all mothers were summoned. Mary was summoned.

It’s no wonder that St. Paul and St. John of the Beatles noted that “in the hour of darkness, she is standing right in front of me…” In our hours of need, we all need mothering.

But not only the comforting mothering, but also the advocate mothering. In John 2 Mary advocates for the power of her son, giving instruction that the wedding attendants should listen to him. This Mary of the scriptures is mirrored in the mothers shaking their fists at the courthouse over their inaction on sensible gun legislation as their babies are murdered in schools and on street corners.

“Listen!” they scream.

Mary is mirrored in mothers shepherding their children across borders into a new life, much like she did when she safeguarded her son in the Gospel of Matthew from that blood-thirsty Herod, fleeing with him across borders from Bethlehem to Egypt to be raised in safety.

Mary is mirrored in the mothers yelling loudly that we must watch out for our children in these days because they are vulnerable to this virus and cannot yet be vaccinated!

Mary was not just tending to her son’s needs, she was fighting for them.

I’m writing all this because this coming Sunday, August 15th, is the Feast of Mary, Mother of Our Lord, and if I were in a pulpit I’d ditch the common texts for the day and celebrate the feast of this God-Bearer not because she’s Divine, but because she mirrors Divine action in hard times.

And we’re in hard times, Beloved.

Humanity is at it’s best, Beloved, when we’re mothering one another. Mary reminds us of this.

There’s just something about Mary…

Half-Time Adjustment in Churches for the Pandemic Playbook

It would be absolutely frightening to be a parish pastor right now.

I’m being totally honest, and I’m speaking from a place of privilege because I am not in that position at the moment.

Please know I realize this.

But the amount of fretting I would be having over in-person worship at this moment would probably put me on sick leave, even without any Covid symptoms.

Because the call of the church is to praise God and look out for “the least of these,” and as the Delta variant now accounts for over 90% of new Covid cases in the United States, and as children who, as of this writing cannot be vaccinated if they’re under twelve, are now even more susceptible to this strain, and as some people STILL REFUSE DESPITE THE SCIENCE to get the vaccine (note: some can’t for health reasons…but they’re few and far between), my gut would tell me to go all virtual again.

Or, at least meet only outside.

Or, at least, to ask children not to attend.

Or, at least, refrain from any singing at all.

Or maybe my gut would tell me that everyone would have to show their vaccination card to attend. But, honestly, even that won’t work because break-through illnesses, though mild, have already appeared in the vaccinated.

So I’d probably just ask that families not bring children.

That may seem extreme, I know. And it might be the case that some areas of the country, where vaccinations are on the rise and spread is low, don’t need that kind of restriction. Localized plans are probably necessary.

But at the very least I’d be considering a “halftime adjustment” right now in the reopening plan.

And if you’re reading this and it’s sending you into a bit of a panic, or making you a bit angry, just take a second and imagine the struggle your pastor is feeling right now.

Because, Beloved, it only takes one kid getting sick from a possible transmission within the church building to cause real harm not only to that child (or unvaccinated adult…please, get the shot!), but also to that pastor who wrestled for the last year and a half, survived scathing emails and people leaving the church over a health crisis on either side of the divide, and felt stuck between a rock and a hard place on this.

But all of the above should not stop the conversation and the questions from happening.

If the church is truly about looking out “for the least of these,” and that right now is the unvaccinated (by their own choice, but they’re our neighbors none-the-less) and the children who cannot yet be vaccinated, what should it do?

P.S. If anything, cut your pastor all the slack in the world. Please. For their health. And yours.