Seeing Christ in the Many-Sidedness of Life

Ispiritual practice meditationn my previous posts, I have explored meditation. Particularly, I wrote about how my experience of meditation at Wild Goose brought me face to face with the ways I am invited to both face and embrace all the sides of who I am as potential gifts of God, even those sides of myself I find objectionable or hard to understand.
I explored last time the insights of Carl Jung as well as pastoral counselor Pamela Cooper-White. Both of these authors suggest that we need to get away from the idea of eradicating these sides of ourselves which we find objectionable. Jung challenges us to recognize the best way to bring light into our lives is not to try to drive out the darkness of our unconscious by rejecting such parts of ourselves. Instead we should by help our unconscious become conscious. In her book Braided Selves, Cooper-White suggests that the way to become whole, healthy, and holy people learning to embrace that we are many-sided, with each side having some value or something to teach us, even or perhaps especially those sides of ourselves we have learned over the years to reject.
My pilgrimage to Wild Goose this year awakened me to how inner work , such as meditation, counseling, and the spiritual life spills out into our outer lives and relationships,
There are people from all over the country and even the world who gather in the hills of Appalachia for worship, meditation, fellowship, education, and renewal through the Wild Goose Festival. Amazingly, in the heart of a part of our country often racked by racism, diversity and disabilitysexism, and homophobia, you get to experience civil rights leaders from communities of color as key voices. Underneath the embracing branches of those Appalachian trees, you get to see queer faith leaders accepted as ones who can lead with integrity. There, close to Mother Earth herself, people experience strong women of God call the church to embody the Sacred Feminine in new ways. This year improvements were even made to help widen both the welcome of and opportunity for leadership of people with disabilities. And, though I did not get a chance to take part, I was told by others about gatherings in which practices of indigenous people like First Nations communities were brought into the worship and witness of the weekend.
In a social and communal way, the Wild Goose Festival embodied this year what Cooper-White said was on a personal level healing for our souls: embracing the many sides to who we are, all as having truth to teach and beauty to lend to the world.
braided selvesTo me, this is a beautiful embodiment of the work Ephesians 3:10 calls the church to be involved in when it says, “through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places”. It is exactly as we discover truth and wisdom in the rich diversity of who we are as communities that we can stand against the powers of oppression Ephesians calls “rulers”.
In her book Braided Selves, Cooper-White makes the challenging point that embracing the diverse sides of who we are in our own souls teaches us to embrace the diversity all around us in other people and in God’s good creation. We become more gracious and open-hearted as we live our callings to be people of God. Embracing the various sides of ourselves frees us to embrace others.
We have seen the history of what failing to do this for ourselves and others produces, according to Cooper-White. Failing to embrace the fullness of who we are individually led us to think living lives of faith meant eradicating what we did not understand in others. QuestionsThose queer aspects of others question our status quo, our dogmas, our time-worn practices. When we as believers spreading our faith with such a mindset, that led toward eroding the rights of women and queer people in the name of Biblical truth. It led our pilgrim and missionary forebears to damage cultures and contribute to genocide, in the name of bringing all of life under the Lordship of Christ. Such an approach was used to justify the destruction of the earth in the name of spreading a culture of acquisition and domination which, though contrary to Jesus’ message, had become identified with the largely Western cultures that housed so much of Christianity. There are many reasons this losing of our way in Christianity happened, but one important reason was Western Christians bought a lie. We bought the lie that we have to be one thing as individuals. We bought the lie that there is only one way to be people of faith. We fell into the mistake of imagining there only one solitary image for who Christ is and how to be Christ’s Body.
In contrast, Gandhi once spoke of truth as Ephesians does wisdom here: truth comes not as a solitary fact but instead like a sparkling diamond. The diamond has many sides that many faceted gemeach are beautiful on their own, but cannot stand alone. Each may shine with particular beauty but only shine in their fullness when brought together. Truth is many-sided, Gandhi said. It takes all the voices in a community being heard, having their experiences embraced on their terms, for such “wisdom of God in its rich variety” to be experienced and expressed. Likewise the path of mindful Christianity, which meditation calls us to, leads to embracing the many-sidedness of wisdom. Far from being a new thing, Ephesians tells us this is the very wisdom we people of God have been called to embody from the beginning.
As we learn to embrace all of ourselves as a part of Christ’s image in our souls and lives, so we can begin to embrace all around us as bearers of the Christ presence. We can embrak on living with love, honor, and respect to all kinds of people and all creation. Doing so can help us be healers of the breaches, mending the world and ourselves.
May we discover the grace and courage to do this holy work.
Your progressive redneck preacher,
Micah

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