Come dream with me about what is possible.
Near the beginning of the summer, I wrote this post about imagining something new.
I wrote it publicly, but actually I think that it was for me.
Those words have been the oars that have moved me slowly and quietly over the waves of the past months.
I am traveling in a small, unassuming boat in a little corner of the world that few have ever heard of, much less visited. But I am paying attention to what’s happening in the world, the giant waves of destruction and chaos that rise up and threaten to consume us all.
But instead of focusing only on what is happening, I am making a practice of imagining what is possible.
This practice of imagining something else is one I have learned from those who have much more experience with facing reality than I do.
I don’t think it’s a version of sticking my head in the sand. I want to remain fully awake.
It’s a practice that (for me) is prayer-soaked. I’m asking for visions of a world that only the Holy Spirit can give to me. And then I am asking for that world to come to be. (On earth as it is in heaven.)
Here are a few examples:
When I call an airline to cancel another trip I had planned, or I write to tell my friends I won’t be able to see them, I imagine us one day in the future, walking together in the sun. I see a path running through green pastures and along bubbling creeks, and we are laughing together as we walk. We are remembering the days of quarantine as a distant memory and delighting at the small joy of drinking wine from a community cup.
When I see rows of people in riot gear, armed for violence and ready for war, I imagine them stripping it all off. One by one they are tossing guns, bullets and vests into a fire. I imagine helmets being pulled off to reveal faces. When I see their eyes, I see how tired they are of fighting. I see that anger and fear are keeping their souls imprisoned. Then I imagine the police having a different experience of being with the people they serve as Resmaa Menakem describes in his book: living in the actual neighborhoods they serve, coaching football in their precincts, having kids over for meals, organizing food for families they know are in need, browsing garage sales and watching parades in their neighborhoods.
When I read that two of the twenty highest clusters of COVID cases are in Arkansas prisons, I imagine the walls of the prison falling down. I see them actually crumbling apart like Jericho, to allow the captives to go free. Outside the fallen walls are doctors and nurses and families ready to care for each person whose body is broken in sickness, and whose heart is aching from being forgotten all these months while prisons have been closed to visitors.
When I see my kids doing school online and their weary teachers trying so hard to make this new process work, I imagine that we discover something new about education in the midst of this strange time. I see communities spending money on turning education at home into an unexpected gift to children and parents, allocating resources that allow parents to be at home with their children during this season. I imagine children thriving outside the walls of schools that have grown to resemble prisons. I see parents, grandparents and teachers who are creating something new.
Recently I listened to an interview with Eddie S. Glaude Jr. where he said that it is we who are the midwives of something new: But every time a new America is about to be born, white supremacy is the umbilical cord wrapped around the baby’s neck, and we allow white supremacy to choke the life out of it.
Maybe the most important part of my practice this summer has been to sit in mediation and pray for the cutting of this umbilical cord. To ask for the release of white supremacy from my very DNA.
This week I finished working through the practices from My Grandmother’s Hands with a group of women. We’ve been doing them twice a week on lunch hour Zoom calls. The practices, written by trauma therapist Resmaa Menakem, are intended to help us heal the generational racial trauma that is stored deep within our bodies.
Some of the practices are a bit different, even strange. They are new to us or don’t come naturally. But week after week, I have asked these women to just trust the process even when we don’t understand it.
Thomas Merton said that God can only take us to “sanctity” by paths that we do not understand.
I think that’s because when we walk paths we don’t understand, we have to release control. We have to let go of all the familiar roads. We don’t know the way, so we can’t be in charge.
And then mysteriously, the unknowing is the actual path.
Our uncertainty is the gift that God uses to take us to “sanctity.”
And that’s encouraging.
Because there is so much that I don’t know.
I don’t know how we are going to survive losing so many loved ones to a new virus.
I don’t know how we are going to create a future that is free from white supremacy when we have worshipped it for so long and built every existing system upon its tenets.
I don’t know how we are going to heal our world from fires and hurricanes and poverty.
I don’t know how to look ahead to next month, much less next year.
So I keep returning to this practice of imagining what is possible.
When I become overwhelmed by how dark the world seems, I sit back down on my little meditation cushion, and ask the Holy Spirit to help me to see it with new eyes.
Maybe that seems naive or crazy or silly.
Maybe that’s because it’s a path that you don’t understand.
I invite you to come along with me down it anyway.
Only God knows what we will find.