Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Six Weeks

Lovely's sister and family have returned to Brooklyn.   There may yet be a lasagna in the freezer but most of the delicious food from the church folks that we have received over the last six weeks has been consumed.   The casserole dishes have been washed and returned to the church kitchen for pick up.   Lovely has been teaching for two weeks.  Daughter has been working for over a month.  I have led worship twice.  The green paraments in the sanctuary remind me that it is "ordinary time."  It is time to reenter this world.  The liminal period has ended. 

I am not ready.  Still I am liminal.   I remember reading Victor Turner in seminary:  
The neophyte in liminality must be a tabula rasa, a blank slate, on which is inscribed the knowledge and wisdom of the group, in those respects that pertain to the new status. The ordeals and humiliations, often of a grossly physiological character, to which neophytes are submitted represent partly a destruction of the previous status and partly a tempering of their essence in order to prepare them to cope with their new responsibilities and restrain them in advance from abusing their new privileges. They have to be shown that in themselves they are clay or dust, mere matter, whose form is impressed upon them by society.

Turner is writing about the rituals preparing someone to become a chief.   However, liminality also describes that experience of "betwixt and between" during any transition.   I feel like a tabula rasa waiting to be inscribed.  I am needing to learn who I am to be and how I will fit in this world after this ordeal.   The temptation is to "man up" and just get on with life.  I hear my inner curmudgeon tell me,
"Don't think about it too much and just get back to work.  Move on, move on."   

But, aside from that being less than healthy for me, I also want something from this.   If the gods, fates, and demiurges are not going to give me my son back, then I at least want some wisdom.  If I can't hear the sound of my son's voice then play for me some music through my hollow-reed heart. 

I do like Joyce Rupp:

A small, wooden flute,
an empty, hollow reed,
rests in her silent hand.

It awaits the breath
of one who creates song
through its open form.

My often-empty life
rests in the hand of God;
like the hollowed flute,
it yearns for the melody
which only Breath can give.

The small, wooden flute and I,
we need the one who breathes,
we await one who makes melody.

And the one whose touch creates,
awaits our empty, ordinary forms,
so that the song-starved world
may be fed with golden melodies.

I also like this picture of Zach and me from last year's vacation at Outer Banks, North Carolina. 

There is not enough wisdom and music in this world to make up for this.   But I still won't leave this liminal state with nothing.  This is what Rabbi Harold Kushner got back from the gods:
I am a more sensitive person, a more effective pastor, a more sympathetic counselor because of Aaron's life and death than I would ever have been without it.  And I would give up all of those gains in a second if I could have my son back.  If I could choose, I would forego all the spiritual growth and depth which has come my way because of our experiences, and be what I was fifteen years ago, an average rabbi, an indifferent counselor, helping some people and unable to help others, and the father of a bright, happy boy.  But I cannot choose.  (When Bad Things Happen to Good People, pp. 133-4)
And that's the truth.


  1. I will dare to make a comment. "Dare" because I am speaking into a holy space. I am reminded of the story of Jacob -- the whole story -- but especially the night when he sent his wife and possessions across the river, and stayed behind alone and wrestled with the angel all night. Then when the angel wanted to leave Jacob said "no, bless me first." And Jacob became "Israel" and the beat goes on.

    Shamans and healers come from that space. Grandfather wisdom comes from that space. Stay as long as you want.

  2. There are many, many of us weeping with you John, silently across the interwebs. Few of us can really know how this feels, but everyone who loves can imagine.

    Love to you and Lovely and Daughter. Love that can never make up for your loss, but love nonetheless.

    Pat Raube

  3. Dear Sea, thank you, I will hang out with grandfather for awhile...

    Dear Pat, "everyone who loves can imagine" yes, thank you.