“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open.”
Poet Muriel Rukeyser

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Speaking of Sin

Lately I've started to think about Barbara Brown Taylor's book, "Speaking of Sin." I don't have a copy of it here, it's at the office. And, I haven't read it for about 5 years....(guessing here, like I said I don't have a copy so not sure when it was printed).

The point is, as I recall from her book, she argues for the necessity of a language for sin. She says that we have become a society that brushes off sin, ignores it as a reality and writes it off. People don't want to go to church and feel "bad" so let's don't offer a confession and absolution.

I remember this topic in a conversation at seminary, lo some 12 years ago. I think I argued, then, for confession, but not at everyone of our daily Eucharists. I thought it would be good enough to have it once or twice a week, so it wouldn't become rote and meaningless. Others wanted it less, while others wanted the confession included in every Eucharist.

Not sure if I would argue it the same way, now. But that's beside the point. What I am thinking about is, how do we name sin? And how do we teach it to people, especially our children?

My kids just roll their eyes when I use language like, "sin." So I have to describe their behavior in other words....words about justice, respect, accountability. My hope is convey what sin is even if they don't like the word.

Another thing, as a I recall, that BBT says in the book, is that forgiveness is important and so is reconciliation. These concepts are important for human well being - in a real, deep, way. I can't recall how BBT unpacks this, but I remember that I thought is was right on.

My daughter is now 20. I think she has grown up understanding the concept of sin and reconciliation even without the language. She has a fine sense of justice, honesty, and accountability. Some days I stand in awe of her strength and integrity.

Now, my son, who is 16, is another story. He, currently, is living with the impression that the world needs to adapt to him, not he to the world. It makes it complicated to teach him accountability....

And, it is leaving me feeling impotent and unable to parent.

But I don't think it is just about me and my son. I think we are a reflection of our society, our world. People who have lost the ability to speak of sin and then understand what to do....and our society is crumbling under that loss...crumbling from denial, from pushing things under or away, and pretending that each of us is entitled to what ever it is we think is right.

Yes. I chose to write a public confession of my failure. It's true. I have. My hope is that accepting my failure (not that I am a failure, but that in areas of my life I have failed)...by accepting it and confessing it, I can seek ways to reconcile it. I trust that the forgiveness is there, but that does not relieve me of my responsibility to reconcile...

That is, with God's grace.

Someday: Mary Oliver

The possessive hummingbird at the feeder in our backyard...he chases off all the other hummingbirds...


Even the oldest of the trees continues its wonderful labor.
Hummingbird lives in one of them.
He's there for the white blossoms, and the secrecy.
The blossoms could be snow, with a dash of pink.
At first the fruit is small and green and hard.
Everything has dreams, hope, ambition.

If I could I would always live in such shining obedience
where nothing but the wind trims the boughs.
I am sorry for every mistake I have made in my life.
I am sorry I wasn't wiser sooner.
I am sorry I ever spoke of myself as lonely.

Oh, love, lay your hands upon me again.
Some of the fruit ripens and is picked and is delicious.
Some of it falls and the ants are delighted.
Some of it hides under the snow and the famished deer are saved.

(Red Bird: Beacon Press Boston; 2008)

This day is going to be a difficult one, for reasons I cannot say, pertaining mostly to my son. I am anxious and crabby and deeply sad. At times I wish I could just wake up from this nightmare. (That was the pervasive thought running through my dreams last night)

I am also worried about my friend M2, the mother of twins, my God-daughters. She is desperately looking for a job. She too is an Episcopal priest. And having been in some 30 searches since January, no church will hire her. It seems churches think a single mom of twin babies won't have time for the parish. Maybe the churches are right? But maybe they are not. It is tragic nonetheless. Please hold her in prayer.

And I am worried about some of my blogging colleagues. Concerned about their well being as they face tragedies and life changes. Voiceless to help, sometimes words fail, hugs are needed.

Some days it is enough just to get out of bed and put one foot in front of another.

I am sorry for all the ways I have failed to be a parent or a friend or a blogging colleague...may my failures (our failures)somehow, SOMEDAY become nurishment for new life.