God of the Living
The Question about the Resurrection (Luke 20:27-40)
Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, ‘Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married, and died childless; then the second and the third married her, and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally, the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.’
Jesus said to them, ‘Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die any more, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Now HE is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.’ Then some of the scribes answered, ‘Teacher, you have spoken well.’ For they no longer dared to ask him another question.
I’ve always thought of this passage as a passage on marriage and individual entity-hood in the afterlife. But reading it as one of the passages on resurrection, it’s clear that the marriage relationship isn’t a concern or focus here at all.
God of the Living has been marinating in my spirit this past week. Life and death is a consistent duality theme throughout the Old and New Testements. It’s easy to think of death as the end of everything, but God is not the Creator of dead things. Death is not the goal, purpose or outcome of Creation.
Yet our entire human experience is focused on death. We are born into a dying world. Everything we eat must die to sustain us, even those who only eat plants. Human societies glorify death by giving honor to those who sacrifice their lives to kill others in war, in service, in daily life. We hold on to people, jobs, situations that drain us of our sense of self. Dying slow deaths at the hands of people who enjoy killing us softly.
Simply by maintaining what we’ve been born into, we are tacitly choosing death every day.
The Question about the Resurrection (Matthew 22:23-33)
The same day some Sadducees came to him saying there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question: “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies childless, his brother shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.’ Now there were seven brothers among us; the first married and died childless, leaving the widow to his brother. The second did the same, so also the third, down to the seventh. Last of all, the woman herself died. In the resurrection, then, whose wife of the seven will she be? For all of them had married her.”
Jesus answered them, “You are wrong because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection people neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels of God in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead but of the living.” And when the crowds heard it, they were astounded at his teaching.
The term “resurrection” implies a return to life. Humans were given a paradise to cultivate. Through human choices the world became condemned and paradise hidden from us. Since we are made of the earth, self-condemnation was the impact. Yet God so loved His Creation – the world and its hybrid human-encased-spirits – that he provided another opportunity for eternal life. A sacrifice to alleviate our self-destruction. Even as The Sacrificial Lamb was poised on the cliff of death, He said to a fellow condemned man, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Jesus’ body died. Jesus’ body returned to life. What happened to Paraadise today? Indeed, did Jesus’s spirit ever leave Paradise?
Jesus is Life. Those who enter into the truth of Jesus Christ are reborn. They are resurrected beings, returning to life in a world they were previously condemned to death in. Looking at Jesus’ response to the question about resurrection, I’m touching on an understanding of how the Resurrected can no longer die. God only sees his children as alive. His Creation is infused with His Breath. What a powerful reminder to get into your spirit.
No matter the process this world puts you through, your belief in the truth of Jesus, indeed your faith, puts you in the resurrected category in which you can experience benefits of your eternal life in this temporal world.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From on you do know him and have seen him.” ~ John 14:1-7
The Question about the Resurrection (Luke 12:18-27)
Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. There were seven brothers; the first married and, when he died, left no children, and the second married the widow and died, leaving no children, and the third likewise; none of the seven left children. Last of all the woman herself died. In the resurrection, when they rise, whose wife will she be? For all seven had married her.”
Jesus said to them, “Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when people rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead but of the living; you are quite wrong.”
Thinking of my neighbor Ms. Cheryl. Written as a prayer and reminder.
Poem: When I get rich
An ode to $AMC
If I get rich
With all this
That’s the poem.
My Crown for a Hug
A review of Spare by Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex
In no way can I claim to be a follower or supporter of the British royal family, yet, after the death of Princess Diana, Prince Harry’s mother, I, like many others around the world touched on media updates to see how her lads were doing. It has done my spirit good to hear Harry share his story.
My review can be summed up in two words: Absolutely beautiful.
Harry is a natural storyteller with a good sense of humor. The arch of his life, identity, growth, maturity, awareness, and manhood are clear and earnestly shared. He doesn’t bash anyone or share intimate details about his familial relationships. However, what he does share of familial interactions is very sad and poignant, unintentionally so, I’m sure. His earnestness creates an intimacy with readers/listeners. [Note: I listened on Audible and am extremely glad for the experience of hearing him tell his story in his own words.]
In retrospect, for those hating on him and saying he shouldn’t talk about his family, his memoir could be described as a rebuttal to media accounts of his life as he appears to stay true to a timeline of headlines covering the twenty-five years leading up to the book. His primary focus is sharing his state of mind, physical location, and emotional environment to provide his perspective and understanding of the stories about him. Unfortunately for the naysayers, these media episodes obviously touch on his family relationships.
During the initial listen, I cried three times. (1) When Harry and Meghan received unexpected help from a benefactor after begging for help from, and being denied by, his father, brother and queen grandmother. (2) The last time he said, “I’ll keep you safe.” (3) His last line in the book. While re-listening to segments for this review, I’ve cried at almost everything I replayed.
The overall gravity of Harry and Meghan’s situation, the petty selfishness and mean-spirited jealousies in his family, the absolute absurdity of this family ruling most of the world for more than a millennia with its myopic dysfunction and self-hatred is astounding. A line of people who have no respect for themselves, their spouses, children, brothers, sisters, etc. have been conquering and dividing the world into parcels since 1066. They’ve created cultures, laws, societies and hierarchies among peoples around the globe. All while being completely opposed to expressing basic human emotion. A touch or a hug for a grandchild – unthinkable! A father protecting his sons from watching their mother’s death on TV – what could be done? A brother embracing his sister-in-law rather than smearing her and her future children in the media – it’s how it’s always been. The British Royal Family eats its own. How could their 1200 year reign possibly result in a better world?
Unfortunately, like most of us mortals, Harry’s not so good at deciphering the heart and motives of his loved ones. For most of the book, I talked back in frustration, voicing the treachery he had to be aware of on some level, but didn’t want to call out directly.
However, when he was forced to the point of understanding, he elucidated how he came to the point of separating from his dysfunctional family in favor of protecting his wife and children. When Harry and Meghan were first ousted from the royal family, I began to pay attention to their story. What struck me was the fact that a Black Woman was so hated and vilified that her husband, a member of the most well-known, powerful and wealthiest families in the history of the world – the second son of a future king – could not keep his wife safe. Not only that, he feared his wife would die as his mother had because of the relentless hounding and vitriol of the paparazzi which went unchecked by his father and brother (both heirs to the throne). He shared his fear openly in real time. Imagine, having the ability to ask for and receive anything your mind could conjure, but security and safety for your wife was prohibited. She was deemed too much of an expense to house, clothe, feed and protect.
“Pa was cutting me off. I recognize the absurdity, a man in his mid-thirties being financially cut off by his father. But Pa wasn’t merely my father. He was my boss, my banker, my comptroller. Keeper of the purse strings throughout my adult life. Cutting me off, therefore, meant firing me. Without redundancy pay and casting me into the void after a lifetime of service. More, after a lifetime of rendering me otherwise unemployable. […] Sponge, the papers called me. There’s a big difference between being a sponge and being prohibited from learning independence. After decades of being rigorously and systematically infantilized, I was now abruptly abandoned, mocked for being immature, for not standing on my own two feet.”
Harry represented himself well. I do hope he sees himself as a human being who has value simply because he exists regardless of his birth into this family and his role in other people’s lives.
Charles: Pa, Boss and Comptroller
Even in his austere aloofness, the former Prince of Wales and current King Charles III comes across as a father who was willing to love and be present if only he could manage it. Unfortunately, for him and his children, his understanding of love and presence is cold and comfortless. Charles is only mentioned as Pa in the Spare. Pa is spoken with reverence, respect, pain and bewildered disillusionment. Pa is often spoken as a plea.
In the garden cemetery at Frogmore, Spare begins with:
“Pa and Willy had their parts to play and they came ready for a fight. ‘Please, boys! Don’t make my final years a misery.’ His voice sounded raspy. Fragile. It sounded, if I’m honest, old.
I looked at Willy. Really looked at him, maybe for the first time since we were boys.[…] In some ways he was my mirror. In some ways he was my opposite. My beloved brother. My arch nemesis. How had that happened? I was massively tired. I wanted to go home and I realized what a complicated concept ‘home’ had become. Or maybe it always was.
‘If they didn’t know why I had left, maybe they just didn’t know me, at all. Maybe they never really did. And to be fair, maybe I didn’t either. I have to tell them. And so, Pa, Willy, World, here you go.'”
So begins the epic retelling of a life from in front of many lenses.
“Journalists are the scum of the earth, but…,” Charles said to his sons in Frogmore gardens following his father’s funeral.
“There was always a but with Pa when it came to the press. He hated their hate, but oh, how he loved their love. One could make the argument that therein lie the seeds of the problem, indeed all problems going back decades. Deprived of love as a boy, bullied by schoolmates, he was dangerously, compulsively drawn to the elixir they offered him. He cited grandpa as a sterling example of why the press wasn’t anything to get too vexed about. Poor grandpa had been abused by the papers most of his life, but now look, he was a national treasure. The papers couldn’t say enough nice things about the man!
‘So that’s it then? Just wait till we’re dead and all will be sorted?’
‘If you could just endure it, Darling Boy, for a little while. In a funny way they’d respect you for it. […] You must understand, Darling Boy, The Institution can’t just tell the media what to do.’
I yelped with laughter. It was like Pa saying he couldn’t just tell his valet what to do.”
Diana: Morning Star
“Wherever mommy was, I understood she was with her friend.”
Harry doesn’t hold any surface or tactile memories of his mother. The way he speaks of her is as an ethereal being who was known to have existed on earth but is hiding away for safety. Named after a goddess and titled as princess, neither stylings are grand enough for his memory of her personhood. Earendel, an indescribably large star discovered in 2022 by the Hubble Space Telescope, is the oldest known star to have existed close to the moment of creation and is called the Morning Star. “That was my mother,” Harry says quietly.
In his late twenties, Harry sought proof of Diana’s actual death. Up to that point, he did not consider her dead, only away. He imagined she was hiding from the paparazzi. Believed she would one day return to whisk him and his brother away to be with her in hiding. He asked a member of his security team for the file on his mother’s car crash hoping to clear any questions he had. Harry reports, “The file proved nothing, other than Mummy was in a car crash. After which she looked unharmed. Slumped over in the back of the car. While those who chased her continued to harass her. Rather than proof, I discovered more reason for rage. It wasn’t a mist. It was a torrent.”
Paris police had seized the cameras of the paparazzi on the scene. The images showed chaos. Onlookers. A deceased Dodi and driver. Hurt bodyguard. Deceased Diana. Flashing lights created auras on the printed images. The file contained police photos of the scene and images from the frenzied photographers who chased Diana to her death. Those men never stopped photographing her even in the aftermath of the crash they caused. She landed between the seats and was clearly unconscious or semi-conscious.
“No one checked on her. Offered her help or comforted her. They were just shooting. Shooting. Shooting. I hadn’t known. I hadn’t dreamed. I’d been told that paps chased Mummy like a pack of wild dogs, but I never dared to imagine that like wild dogs, they also feasted on her defenseless body. I hadn’t been aware before this moment, that the last thing Mummy saw on this earth, was a flash bulb.”
When he was twenty-three, Harry went to the World Cup in Paris. While there, he asked his assigned driver to drive up and down that same tunnel at 65 miles per hour (the speed Diana supposedly died at) in an attempt to understand how something so routine could be so life-altering. He was not convinced events happened as reported.
Identity is problematic
“Two years older than me, Willy was the heir and I was the spare. This wasn’t merely how the press referred to us, though it was definitely that. This was shorthand often used by Pa, Mummy and Grandpa and even Granny. There was no judgment about it. But also, no ambiguity.
I was the shadow, the support, the Plan B. I was brought into the world in case something happened to Willy. I was summoned to provide back-up. Distraction and diversion. And if necessary, a spare part. A kidney perhaps, blood transfusion, spec of bone morrow. This was all made explicitly clear to me from the start of life’s journey and regularly reinforced thereafter.
I took no offense. I felt nothing about it. Any of it. Succession was like the weather. Or the positions of the planets. Or the turn of the seasons. Who had the time to worry about things so unchangeable? Who could bother with being bothered by a fate etched in stone?
Being a Windsor meant working out which truths were timeless and then banishing them from your mind. It meant absorbing the basic parameters of one’s identity knowing by instinct who you were, which was forever a byproduct of who you weren’t. I wasn’t Granny. I wasn’t Pa. I wasn’t Willy. I was third in line behind them.”
During his gap year, he worked a cattle farm in Australia. He had planned on six months in the outback, but the ranch was infiltrated by paparazzi. He left early. However during his time, he acquired new habits, dressing style and a new nickname, Spike.
“I became Spike, when I wasn’t Haz, Baz, Prince Jackeroo, Harold, Darling Boy or Scrawny. Identity had always been problematic, but with a half dozen formal names and a full dozen nicknames, it was turning into a hall of mirrors. Most days I didn’t care what people called me. Most days I thought ‘Don’t care who I am so long as it’s someone new. Someone other than Prince Harry.”
Harry speaks of several women he dated as being guide stones in his evolution. Each one highlighted a part of himself he was unaware of or hadn’t been able to access prior to the relationship. The first girlfriend Harry mentions is Chelsea, whom he was drawn to because she was different from the people in his circle. She was South African and preferred her home to Britain. She was unconcerned with appearances, propriety, and royalty. He was enraptured. During his time with Chelsea, he says:
“I had no talent, so I’ve been told. Again and again. And thus all reactions to me had nothing to do with me. They were down to my family. My title. And consequently, they always embarrassed me because they were so unearned. I’d always wanted to know what it might be like to meet a woman and not have her eyes widen at the mention of my title. But instead widen them myself using my mind, my heart. With Chelsea, that seemed a real possibility.”
Another girlfriend helped him cry for the first time since his mother’s death. It was then that he began to accept that Mummy was not going to return. He was encouraged to seek counseling. He did so.
One day while scrolling his Instagram feed, Harry came across a filtered video of his friend Violet with a woman he had never seen.
“I’d traveled the world from top to bottom. Literally. I’d hopscotched the continents. I’d met hundreds of thousands of people. […] For thirty-two years, I’d watched a conveyor belt of faces pass by and only a handful ever made me look twice. This woman stopped the conveyor belt. This woman smashed the conveyor belt to bits. I’d never seen anyone so beautiful. Why should beauty feel like a punch in the throat?
I never had a firm answer to that burning question: Is there just one person on this earth for each of us? But in that moment, I felt there might be only one face for me. This one. I sent Violet a message: WHO. IS. THIS. WOMAN?”
He had an instant response to Meghan’s face. She exuded energy, joy, playfulness, confidence and a sense of freedom.
You’re free! Fly away!
Frogmore was special to Harry. It held one of his favorite cemetery’s and was one of the first places he lived with Meghan. he thought it would be their forever home before they had to flee the country. Following his grandfather’s funeral, he still sought Frogmore’s cemetery – for a walk with his father and brother, and for his final resting place – “…because the gardens were lovely and it seemed peaceful.”
On remembering a happy day with Willy – a transcendent moment that led to the rarest of things: a long tight hug with his brother:
“Now I saw that even our finest moments, my best memories somehow involved death. Our lives were built on death. Our brightest days were shattered by it. Looking back, I didn’t see spots of time, but dances with death. I saw how we steeped ourselves in it. […] Windsor castle itself was a tomb. The walls filled with ancestors. The Tower of London was held together with the blood of animals. […]Outsiders called us a cult. But maybe we were a death cult. Wasn’t that a little more depraved?
Even after laying Grandpa to rest, had we not had our fill? Why were we here? Lurking on the edge of that undiscovered country from whose born, no traveler returns.
Eh, maybe that was a more apt description of America. My father and brother were talking over each other. I was no longer listening. I was already gone. Already on my way to California. A voice in my head saying, ‘Enough death! Enough! When is someone in this family going to break free and live?'”
Upon leaving his father and brother in the cemetery, Harry walked to Frogmore Cottage and was greeted at the door with a long hug from his wife, Meghan. Listening, one could tell all was right with his world in that moment.
Seventeen months after his grandfather passed, Harry was notified that his Granny was gone.
“Pa was king.”
Harry: A Man. Not a Spare.
Harry likens California to life. By extension one can also hear that he sees Meghan and America as givers of life also. Speaking of the past, of honoring long-dead ancestors with bows, and salutes while passing monuments in their image, it’s easy to see how generations became mired in death and stuck in the ways of the deceased.
Spare begins with an institutional family meeting where Harry is resented for expecting and seeking his individuality. Where he confronted his punishers for retaliating against him for attempting to live his life on his terms with a partner of his choosing. We can all understand why Charles would be resentful. He was denied his choice for most of his life. The book also highlights why William is resentful – as the heir, he’s held to a stricter rule than Harry. Being his own man was never on the table for William.
Spare ends with the realization of life being an active choice. By remaining in the traditions he was raised in, death had become part of everything. Ancestors were buried in houses; walls were held together with blood. Images of the dead were on walls and standing in corners. Harry wasn’t aware of an option other than death worship. Tradition had taught him he was only in the world to support the lives of his superiors, not to live his own life. Tradition had taught him to put the crown and institution before self and family. Tradition had taught him that obedience to duty came before everything. There was a pecking order to obedience. His brother was above him. His father was above his brother. His granny was above everyone. If granny said yes, it didn’t matter what the other two said. Yet his brother could still physically assault him and threaten him with no consequences. His father could still remove his protection to bring him into obedience as he saw fit.
Then Meghan came along. A Black Woman who had made a name and career for herself crossed his line of sight. Someone he connected with whom he had a great deal in common. Someone who exuded life and joy. Someone who demanded to be respected for who they were, not because of their name or position. A humane human with a good heart. Harry became smitten and developed a new life-focused purpose.
Harry had tested his constraints throughout his life. But he had tested with mischief. He had played at being naughty and shocking. He had explored options within the parameters set for him. Because of the way his family treated Meghan, he had to think in a new way and explore options outside of everything he had ever known. In doing so, he learned more independence than he thought possible. More importantly, he learned, experienced, and embraced love. Love for himself, his wife, their relationship. Love has expanded Harry into a protector, a provider, a man, a husband, and a father.
In the last minutes of his story, Harry describes his daughter’s birth. He shares his verbal greeting and his desire to welcome Lilibet skin to skin. He shares that later, as he and Meghan laid skin to skin, she spoke his testimony to him, words he now hold sacred. “That was everything. That is a man. My love, that is not a spare.”
Songs that held me together in 2022
Zach Williams’s music has been my soundtrack for at least the last three years. And I had no idea until a few months ago. He wrote and performed songs that seemed to pull my heart out and wring the tears directly from it. His voice is rich and soulful and his writing is soul therapy. If you haven’t enjoyed his music yet, do yourself a favor and listen to his last three albums.
Along this thought train, I want to share a smaller volume of songs that have ministered to me over the last year. Here are my top picks from K-Love’s rotation plus one from elsewhere. Be blessed as you go.
My playlist on Amazon Music: 2022 Songs that Held Me Together
Reflection Friday: I’m taking you back…
Prompt: What don’t you want to go back to?
“I’m taking you back to the very place you suffered shame and defeat and you will have victory.”
A couple of years ago, I came across this old journal entry. At the time I wrote it, it spoke to me about my return to Arizona in 2018. Heavy, profound, life & family altering changes happened during my first stay in Arizona in the 1980s. When I stumbled upon this message a couple of years ago, I had just returned to Milwaukee after sixteen years away. This time, a return to all the places, people and things that have impacted my life seemed to be the warning and lesson.
I don’t know what the victory is, but I know the promise is that I won’t die in defeat. My end won’t come while I’m low. If I’m not shouting for joy now, I need only hold on because the morning will certainly come.
The first time I left Arizona, I vowed never to return. I was thirteen. It’s now a place I think of as an ideal home for myself. A place I want to settle in before retirement so I can build a community to age with before old age keeps me in place.
The last time I left Milwaukee, I swore I was done with it. I was thirty. Yet when I came back in 2021, Milwaukee was the most promising city for me as a new real estate investor. Among other cities, my top considerations were Atlanta, Baltimore and Detroit. Anywhere may have been a profitable choice, but I knew none of those cities intimately. However, I understood Milwaukee – it’s markets, culture, neighborhoods and its people. It’s biases. I remembered where it was twenty and thirty years ago. I was beyond excited about recent, current and future development projects. More importantly, I could afford to buy in a neighborhood that was one minute from the interstate, ten minutes from most major points in the metro area, and adjacent to a neighborhood I wanted to work myself into.
When I left New York City, the mantra that drove me was, “I’m not going to die here!” I was forty-three. New York is where I first became my most authentic self. I was able to push boundaries, explore concepts, sample possibilities, and dismantle walls boxing me in identities I wasn’t sure represented me. It’s where I was most alive even when the City began to feel like a gilded cage. Six months after selling my co-op apartment and completing my relocation to the Tortolita Mountains in Southern Arizona from East Harlem, the Covid-19 lockdown began. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to be a shut-in during a global quieting.
How we begin our journey is no indication of how we will end it. How we leave a place, people or situation doesn’t mean we will return the same way – stuck in our hurts, frustrations, disappointments or soaring on triumphs and memories of greatness. If we are open to change, not only will we evolve but the way we interact with the world will bring opportunities we never could have imagined the first time around. As our perspective expands, life forms everywhere we look and joy becomes an expectation.
- Where is the one place you are determined never to return to? Why? Is it fear based? Shame? Regret? Whatever the reason, have you confronted and explored it?
- What is the best lesson learned after you returned to a place you didn’t want to go back to?
#live #life #covid_19 #chooselife #getup #go #newperspective #newchoices #newday #newmercies #live #woman #womanhood #iamwoman #harvestlife #reflection #doover #keepmovingforward #onward #whatsnext #rethink #restructure #reflect #build #reapingmyharvest #Iamtheharvest #joy #peace #selfawareness #chooselife
Poem: the blessing of ordinary
Relics of My Imagination
Returning to a former hometown has been revelatory in a profoundly impactful way. We remember people as we were last with them. Memory is faulty. It leans towards rosy hues and comfort connections. If prior interactions were positive, or what we may have considered to be warm, friendly, or loving at the time, memory will serve rosy images of comfort. If prior interactions had been overwhelmingly negative or emotionally damaging, memory will bar any images of comfort attaching to lingering thoughts. If the relationship was a mixed bag of all life has to offer, the love, admiration and esteem you held for the person will overshadow everything. Until it can no longer stand up to the truth of character and time.
shown me more of. Releasing my thoughts release their hold on me.
Since the turn of the century 😊 (the last twenty years or so), I have been trying to understand myself in tandem with my core relationships. I have chiseled away the elements I didn’t want to be a part of the woman I am becoming. Likewise, I began holding my relationships up to the same harsh light. I saw they all needed infusions of Spirit, Love and Truth. Only then was I able to see people as are, rather than as my imagination remembered them.
Even as my relationships collapsed and wasted away one by one, there were a few I genuinely believed would survive close scrutiny. The friendships I thought were based in truth and mutuality of intent. The friendships I built on shared belief in the Word and compatible spirits. The family members I loved more than myself and would have laid down my life for… until my life became an expected forfeit for their ease. I thought some relationships would survive the fire God was purging my life with. For many years, I held on to some stubbornly. Refused to let go. Kept doors open. Maintained lines of communication. Fanned the flames of hope. All the way up to my return to Milwaukee last year.
Returning to a point of beginning has shown me like nothing else, how much I’ve grown – how much I’ve BECOME. In many ways, all the people I’ve been holding on to are in the same places emotionally, mentally, physically and/or spiritually as they were when I left. Effective sharing has been impossible because I’m not able to be fully who I am now in conversation. My current troubles, concerns, hopes, goals, views, ideas are nothing close to what they were twenty years ago. And yet they speak to me as if twenty years have not passed, even though we’ve been communicating throughout this time.
Twenty years ago, I subjugated myself in every arena of life. Everyone I encountered and interacted with were treated with great esteem. So much so, that it may have appeared that I esteemed myself less than I esteemed them. This is true to the point that I chose to leave home – family and friends – for a faraway place (New York City) to explore who I am without everyone else’s demands and influence on my personhood, time, and resources. That was the beginning of me chiseling my identity out of the narrative I was born, and repeatedly placed, into.
I’ve been gone from Milwaukee for as long as I’ve ever lived there, yet it remains the place I’ve lived the longest. As such, it has a deep impact on my early worldview and life expectations. These ingrained perceptions transformed into re-writable code during my fifteen years in New York City. A whole life recalibration in the Southern Arizona desert followed my time in New York. Living in quiet solitude allowed me to gently revisit core family and friend relationships. The tranquility of my environment provided space for honest evaluation and the ability to listen with an uncluttered heart.
During that time, I learned I wasn’t important to any of the mother and sister figures in my life. I was useful, but not valued as a whole person. What I could do for them kept them in contact with me. When I let their words and actions reveal their hearts, I was able to see how they viewed me as only a fraction of who I once was. They kept me in a mental space of need, lack, silliness, and inferiority. Easier to exploit if they thought they were doing me a favor with their attention and demands.
Painful revelations to be sure, but from the distance of a few years, I now appreciate not misunderstanding my place in people’s lives. They held a special place in my heart, but now what I thought we were has become fond memories. I’m no longer burdened with a desire to be present, to perform or to even communicate. When I stopped buying into the performative nature of our interactions, they began giving up the performance as well. This unmasking has been a great process for repositioning relationships more appropriately according to their nature rather than what I imagined they were.
Returning to Milwaukee has cleared away fog, doubt and shaken the stranglers completely loose. I’ve been looking at this period of my life as the end of an autumn season. There’s been vibrant change, amazing color, and opportunities for joy, but the whole season has been about transition. From changing leaves to winds of change. The shaking loose of the dying leaves from trees can be traumatic with its suddenness. Sometimes, all it takes is one good storm to leave you shaken, naked and barren. Ferocious gusts of wind to take away the glory of your foliage. An overcast darkness to usher you into a season of dormancy.
As we transition deeper into winter, we lose light and heat. We become grateful for the few leaves that weren’t shaken loose when one storm became many. We cling to those resilient leaves for as long as we can. Until the light becomes brighter and the heat starts to warm our roots again. Transitioning from winter to spring reminds us that adorning ourselves with dead things hinders growth. That storm we hated for shaking our beauty and comfort loose was necessary to prepare us for new life, new possibilities, for our next season of blossoming. The storms also deepen our understanding and sharpen our sight.
I still don’t know the full purpose of this extended return in Milwaukee, but I recognize the need for purging, clarity, and rejuvenation.
There will always be questions. What if my past hadn’t been what it was? How different would my life be? What if I had made different choices? What if I had stayed and not sought to chisel my identity from the harshness of the world? All those what ifs would still be what ifs with the addition of “who am I” – the question that sent me out into the world – if not for the path my life has taken.
One thing my solitary existence has taught me is the firmness of my identity. I’m not fluid. I’m not unsure. I’m not scared to ask hard questions. I know I’m created in glory as a Child of the Most High. I know my will and moral compass bends towards the Word of God. I know I will achieve all the purposes I’ve been created, prepared, and positioned to achieve. I need not chase or worry. I need not torment myself about who is with me or for me. It is only me and My God as it has always been – even when I wasn’t aware. I am confident in proclaiming my name, and my determination to fully develop into My Creator’s purpose for me.
Breathe. Release. Repeat.
There was a time when I held on to everyone and everything
for dear life. Periods when life was defined by the people I craved
relationship with, things I strove to acquire, and status I worked hard to achieve. All these were cultivated by family and societal culture.
This current stage of transition and transformation doesn’t accommodate such baggage well. It’s taken away my appetite and done away with most of my desire.
Over time, relationships have disintegrated, things have
lost value, status no longer has meaning. Contentment has come with releasing them all.
Learning to simply be is a joy. Embracing my breath. Learning its pattern. Knowing without it, I am nothing. Breathe. Release. Repeat.
Today I choose to release yesterday’s hopes, plans, and disappointments.
Right now, I focus on my breath. It’s softness and it’s power.
In this chain of moments, I honor my cycle of inhaling and exhaling. The pleasure of simply being.
Wherever I am is where I choose
to be present, so there I be.
Poem: Have I ever loved?
Who am I if not
A creature created in the
Image of love?
But what is an image
If not a facsimile?
Incapable of being
If love is a reaction to receiving
For we love because
We have first been loved
Then what of the love
That was supposed to pour into me?
What am I pouring out
If I haven’t first received?
In this dimension there has been no
No partner or mate
With whom to lay down
Or to build up
What would I know
Of a gentle touch
A tender kiss
A thrusting merge
An expectant birthing
A purposed feeding?
How am I to learn
The deep nature of
Sharing in true
When my existence
At every level
Has been solitary
Relating to myself
I am right
Though my conclusions
May be wrong
If I don’t even know
How could I possibly
Give what I haven’t
All these years
I thought I was offering
Though I knew I was begging
Trying to avoid my emptiness
Attempting to camouflage
Seeking to heal to
While offering my image
Of wholeness to the broken
But if love is
Absent from my being
How was I ever whole?
How was I ever able
To offer myself?