Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Here, She Is by Jacqueline Hope Derby

Painting by Elisabeth Slettnes

My friend Caley is walking his mother through the dying process right now. Old hurts surface, begging for a balm of forgiveness or grace. The puss of regret seeps out, and madness wrecks many a sleepless night as the cancer eats away at his mother’s mind and wellbeing. There are midnight confessions, spontaneous “I love yous!” whispered in the dark, and screaming fears in the light of day. Everything is upside down, topsy-turvy, and backwards.

Caley took his mother back to his own home to give his sister a respite over Thanksgiving. His mother, deeply afraid, asked him to walk with her through the dark house to make sure that there were no thieves in the night. Caley held onto her, as they made their rounds in the shadows. Bumbling. Bumping. Almost falling once, Caley begged his mother to let him turn on the lights, but she would not have it.

Caley’s mother is dying to be healed, so Caley and his family minister to her where she is. They tend her body, and see it in ways they never had before. They stand with her in her confusion and rage, and wonder where their mother went. They hear her vitriol, and cringe—for they only want the final blessing of, “My darling child, you are enough. You are good. You are love. You have made me proud every day of my life.”

Caley is dying for his mother to be healed as well. The healing he desires is the one that touches both of them here in this place where the cancer ravages, the fears persist, and old familial wounds beg for gentle tinctures.

True healing requires the deepest of resolve to stand in the most horrific of places and answer the call to deepen, even if the thing we want the most is denied to us. Caley’s mother is not going gently into the good night. She is kicking and screaming. She is biting and hitting. She is stumbling around in the dark of her past choices and clutching to her children in the hope that they can lead her to the light of grace and forgiveness and unconditional love before it is too late.

This healing is not cheap. It does not come like a wish granted by a fairy godmother or a genie in a bottle. Make me rich. Make me beautiful. Make the prince fall in love with me. These are cheap and without substance, and all-too-often what we think healing looks like. We believe that healing happens in a place where God puts right what once went wrong. The blind see. The deaf hear. The lame walk.

We desire this god—this male god—because the hard work of healing overwhelms us. We set ourselves up to believe that cheap healing and cheap peace are enough. We will and beg and beseech this god to come in and punish those who hurt us, wipe out those who are different from us, smite those who are evil (in our eyes), and take away all our afflictions. We believe all-too-often the lie that these actions will make things right, when in fact, they just add to the destruction of our very souls and the wellbeing of our precious planet and her children. 

What we want is vengeance, not healing. Or at best we just want the bad to disappear from our lives and from our memories.

True healing is much more difficult to attain because it costs us our own cherished image of ourselves as better or above those around us. True healing invites us into the center of our being where we must confront our places of shadow, fear, regret, rage, love, hope, and light. True healing is a completely different force than vengeance. True healing is transformation. This healing is not holding our breath for something better to come along; this healing is breathing deeply even as it does not. True healing is not death, but instead birth, and birth, and birth. We are continually reborn into more compassionate, more giving, more loving, more accepting, more trusting, more wise, more awake human beings.

And being fully awake is the central invitation and gift of Mother God.

Awaken my child. Awaken. See with your open heart. Hear with your own experiences of loss that taught you compassion. Walk with your love of justice and your longing for all of my creation to be whole.

Mother God ushers us through our darkest, most frightening nights. She does not turn on the lights. She does not protect us from all the bumps and bumbling and bruises. Why not? She is too wise and good to protect us from our learning. She does not set right what once went wrong because that would destroy our soul’s opportunity to glean what it must for us to awaken further. She bears witness. She screams at us to grow the fuck up and stop hurting our siblings and ourselves. She whispers. She cajoles. She calls to our deepest truest root and reminds us that we are Her child and must act accordingly.

But She does not stop us. She does not make it so the boogeyman never enters the darkened house. She never prevents the horrible choices that lead to even more horrible consequences. The laws of physics are Her wisdom at play, so She never suspends them. To do so would be to abandon Her creation, Her boundaries, Her brilliance.

The child in me can never be unmolested. It always happened. I was always betrayed. I was always brokenhearted. I was always afraid of being killed by my stepfather. This God. This Mother. She does not make it not happen, and She does not rescue me. She only holds me and sustains me in it. There is seven year-old me being assaulted for the first time, but I am not alone there. She is with me. She is weeping with me. She is cooing me.

When I am dragged by my hair through the house after threatening to expose him, She is with me. She is telling me my name. She is calling me daughter. She is loving me. I am not alone, but it still happens. Shit still happens. She cannot fix it. She cannot make me forget it because even if my mind blocks it my body remembers for my mind. She cannot and will not abandon me, just as She will not stop it.

It will never be as if it never happened. Life just does not work that way. We are not Her puppets. We are Her children, and like Her we create with reckless abandon. We create good. We create love. We create connection. And we destroy that which we create. We destroy one another. We destroy ourselves. We destroy that which we loved the most. We destroy that which we hate. Destruction is not Her way or Her will, but too often it is ours.

So here, right here in the shit of it all and in the glory of it all, She is. Here where we are crushed by the weight of our dying mother on our arm in her terror of the middle of the night. Here where we are wrecked body and soul by the horrific actions of those who should be trustworthy and kind. Here where we destroy our gifts, our garden, our neighbor, ourselves. Here where we are uncertain, frightened, broken, and bad. Here, She is.
Here, right here in the stunning glorious beauty of it all, She is. Here where we get to whisper sweet nothings to one whose body we know better than our own. Here where we get to forgive the unforgivable and restore relationships. Here where we hold our newborn child in our arms. Here where we paint, dance, sing, jump, love, live, and celebrate. Here where we are confident, good, hopeful, whole, and enough. Here, She is.

Keep your petty, vengeful boy god. Your boy god is a child who yells and kicks and screams when he doesn’t get his way. He is full of smite and smut. He hates things that go bump in the night. He casts away those most precious for childish reasons, like saying his name wrong, being the wrong gender, or the wrong color. He is petty and mean. He looks for quick fixes and wants a blood payment to prove your loyalty. He wants right answers to pop quizzes. He thrives on “us versus them.” He is muddy and obscured by our own filth and fear to the point of being irrelevant. 

Keep. Him. Away.

Instead, come to the darkness. Come to the unknowing. Come to the questions. Come to the liminal light between night and day and day and night. Come to possibility. Come to the here and now. Come to the broken pieces. Come to the truth—even the truths that pierce your heart or your side or your vagina. Come here.

Come here where She is. Come to the place of mosaics built of broken pieces. Come to the place of the gilded phoenix being refined by the fire and then rising. Come to the sacred ground of the pupa where you are transformed. Come to the land of peace where we are all brother, sister, planet, creation, equal before our Mother. Come to the here where your life is imperfect, messy, hurt, broken, and awkward.  

Come here and listen to Her tell you again about the true healing She offers each of us:

Awaken my child. Awaken. See with your open heart. Hear with your own experiences of loss that taught you compassion. Walk with your love of justice and desire for all of my creation to be whole.

For it is here that She is. And however much you may try to deny it, it is here where you are.

By Jacqueline Hope Derby, a selection from the upcoming Girl God Anthology, Whatever Works: Feminists of Faith Speak

Celeste Gurevich, Whatever Works Contributor

Whatever Works is a unique collection of writing by feminists of diverse faiths from around the world. This anthology combines personal essays, poems and academic musings with the goal of sparking conversations among women of all faith backgrounds. Religion plays a key role in defining and maintaining value systems, and yet it is often disregarded within feminism itself. This book shares the stories of highly diverse women with the hope that we can find collective solutions to the global problems that plague women and girls living under patriarchy.
Available late March - pre-order here.

The Reverend Jacqueline Hope Derby is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. She has served primarily as a healthcare chaplain working with trauma victims, young mothers, and children. Subsequently, Jacqueline’s professional interests include bioethics, Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, self-care for the healthcare professional, healing and meaning making. She is a national speaker and writer, and her work can be found at Jacqueline lives in Kentucky with her husband, young daughter, and their beloved Springer Spaniel.



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