The Middle Ground Ones
I often first learn about my deepest longings by overhearing what comes out of my own mouth.
(Yes, I’m the picture of self-awareness that way.)
Insert me on a recent phone call with my friend Kary Oberbrunner and his Deeper Path coaching group. The beautiful people on his call are asking me questions about writing and leadership and I am shooting off the cuff or from the hip, whichever is more aimless. Which is when I hear myself say:
And Kary hears it too. And he tweets it.
I sit for a minute looking at my Twitter feed, absorbing how much of me–this stage of me at least–is captured by this one sentence.
I am learning to hold bravery in one hand and humility in the other.
Here I am, the Sleeved-With-Heart Sarah of the Middle Ground Ones …
Unwilling to entrench myself on one side,
To soldier up around the poles,
To engage warfare as if every issue has two clean and neat sides with no space in between.
Unwilling to pledge my allegiance to any party’s allegedly inerrant views about God, rather than trying to cast my allegiance farther, into the mysterious abyss beyond that where I might catch a glimpse of the inerrant God himself stirring in the waters.
The wind blows where it wills, you know, and we hear the sound of it, but we do not know whence it comes or whither it goes.
Here I am, resistant to looking for God through the narrow scope of religious artifacts–old or new, through cylinders carved by defenders of religion looking through a glass, darkly.
Here I am, trying and failing to order my interior world in a way that allows me to notice God in the faces of many; to sense his breath in their spirits; to recognize the rhythm of my muse which might also be in them.
Here I am, trying so desperately to wide-eye the panorama of God in search of everything he is willing to reveal himself to be.
Here I am, trying to hold my tongue when I’m tempted to tell God where or in whom he can show up.
I reach for more bravery with one hand…because…
My journey is valid.
I have lived in the spiritual shadowlands and been unwell.
But by the sort of deep and enduring grace that inspires sweet, old hymns to page, I am not there now.
I have been lured into rays of glittered dust particles at the place where light meets darkness.
I am on my way to whole.
And while my path may not belong to everyone,
It is fair and right to sprinkle breadcrumbs in my wake,
To invite any who are seeking, who are able, or willing to trek after my broken footprints,
To forage some of my same trails for the well-being I have found.
The redemptive threads of my life deserve to be spoken.
Not to raise some sort of imperial fist against those who struggle,
But to offer them an open hand to join their struggling journey to my own.
I reach for bravery with one hand…because…
The world is too marked by evil,
Too fragmented by shame and suffering,
Too overrun with oppression and abuse,
To stand by. Silently.
It must be a sin to spin and spiral one’s white flag through the air while casualties fall at your feet.
I reach for more bravery with one hand…because…we cannot afford to look at the deficits of our surroundings and be neutral.
I reach for more bravery with one hand…because…
Some beliefs, like those staked in the surprising and delighting Jesus,
who Sermon-on-the-Mounted his way to cultural upturnings,
Some beliefs, like those that honor the sacred worth–the deep-seated value of all the religiously-and-politically-and-otherwise-“othered” people,
Who clench their eyes shut while clinging to the coattails of the blind,
Who frantically polish the outside of institutional cups,
Who refuse to dance when the soft, breathy tones of the flute are playing,
Yes, some beliefs, these beliefs,
Are worthy of the spending–yes, even the laying down–of life.
They are worthy of being misunderstood and misperceived.
Being judged or discarded.
Worthy of walking directly into opposition,
And looking boldly into a critic’s eyes,
They are worth the unclenching of my pride.
Worth growing the way I communicate.
Worth dying to my need-to-be-right-ness.
Worth taking up cross in all the ways that first demand change of me without ever requiring wood or nails.
Perhaps, for some of us, these beliefs are worth nomad-ing between peoples, tenting in the middle ground, and having no permanent place to lay one’s head.
Of anchoring our boats to those on both poles.
And refusing to pull up the chains that loose us from either side.
I hear the drum-beating call to bravery in the words of Jesus and in the voice of my friends and it echoes deep within my heart.
And so I again reach for bravery with one hand…
But I reach for humility with the other,
Because the bravery I once knew well was often as reckless as it was right.
And it was not sistered to humility–to the virtues that magnetically draw and retract courage in service to compassion.
(More on this humility I reach for later this week.)