Creator God, From my mouth, your words; in our hearts, your love and compassion; with our lives, your will for us this day and always. Amen
Good Morning! Here’s a poem by Langston Hughes entitled MOTHER TO SON.
Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor——-
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
and sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—–
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
This is my story, too. Many hours were spent at a kitchen table or back porch inheriting wisdom and inspiration from my mother, my grandmothers, and other female elders. Among those many lessons, I learned the value and importance of deep listening.
It didn’t surprise me that Wisdom was personified in the feminine form in the first reading, “Wisdom has built HER house…,” “SHE has mixed HER wine…” SHE has also set HER table…,” and so on. Wise and knowledgeable women have been encouraging and advising me from my life’s beginning to this very day.
My mother, for example, implored me to keep “a childlike wonderment about life.” My maternal grandmother always warned me to keep away from any “who shot John.” Who shot John was her term for chaos and drama. My paternal grandmother, Ms Emma, would tell me “Baby, life is short. Don’t waste your time arguing with children, drunks, or fools.” For these women and others like them, the lessons of Christ and the word of the Lord were their bedrock. The wisdom of the ages never failed them even when they faltered. Perhaps it was feminine wisdom that informed Simone Biles to care for her mental health rather than risk physical and emotional damage. Perhaps feminine wisdom persuaded Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri to camp out on the Capitol steps to protest the ending of the eviction moratorium which was eventually extended. Perhaps you have been influenced by such women and wisdom in your life.
Why, I wonder, when faced with challenges in our daily lives, do we so often forget the wise words given to us by our elders? Why does our ability to ignore wisdom frequently exceed our ability to heed it? So many times, we do what is expedient versus doing what is right. We suffer a kind of spiritual amnesia, make poor decisions, choose to live unwisely. and are shocked at the ensuing consequences or, as a dear friend likes to call them, God’s Little Reminders.
Most of us think we are deep listeners. Are we? A priest in this diocese once told me that, periodically, one must escape to a quiet space, outdoors if possible, turn one’s palms to the heavens and ask WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO TEACH ME GOD, WHAT AM I TO LEARN?… and listen with one’s whole being. The lesson being we need to stop or, in the vernacular of the Episcopal Church’s Way Of Love, we need to Turn. That is, we need to Pause, Listen and Choose the Way Of Love.
When I’ve done this exercise and listened, I mean really listened, I could hear the wisdom of the ancestors in those old gospel songs like HOW I GOT OVER and I DON’T FEEL NO WAYS TIRED. I could sense the embrace of Christ reminding me of His Grace and that He’s got me. I could see with my mind’s eye the Christ light illuminating my path, showing me where I am and where I need to be. Or, in the words of one gospel song, “Lead me, Guide me, along the way. Where you lead, I will not stray.”
I have celebrated the 61st year of my earthly journey. According to some, I am now in the next generation of elders, a keeper of history and institutional memory, a griot, that is, a storyteller. All polite ways of saying Keith, you’re getting old. Whether I am sliding into those roles or not, I don’t know. I do, however, have a responsibility to share what I’ve learned, what I’ve experienced and observed to those who follow me, especially my daughter and granddaughter. Here’s something I’d like to pass along:
In this cauldron of chaos and confusion we call America, wisdom seems to be in short supply. Individuals are refusing, not for religious or medical reasons, to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, though science and data, facts, show the vaccine helps mitigate Covid’s spread and reduces the chance of fatal outcomes. For America to move forward, that is, move from where it is to where it needs to be, we must pause, listen, and choose to follow The Way Of Love.
What does that look like? Well, let’s listen to one another rather than shout at each other. Let’s return civility to our civic discourse, our politics, our social media posts. Let’s work to find meaningful solutions to our issues rather than easy expedient answers. Do the deep lasting work that ends food insecurity and makes healthcare affordable and equitable for all. Let’s acquaint ourselves with the wisdom of the ages and stop making the mistakes of the past. Do we really need to repeat the 1960s? Let us respond to issues versus reacting to them. Those who would challenge the motives of allies of racial justice and reconciliation, consider the words of Ms Emma: Everything white ain’t bad to you, everything black ain’t good for you. Let us freely give compassion and grace to those who may have known neither. Treat the homeless, the beggar at the top of the exit ramp, the addicted, those on the margins of our society with dignity and respect. The late Texas congresswoman Barbara Jordan said it best: What the people want is simple. They want an America as good as its promise.
We cannot move forward into the light by retreating further into darkness. Let us end each day one step closer to our best selves, one step closer to the Beloved Community.
May Christ, who is The Way, keep us in The Way;
Above us to watch, beneath us to hold;
Behind us to guard, ahead to lead,
Within us to light our path.