Tag Archives: Nadia Bolz-Weber

The Scariest Thing of All

entwined trees

Connection/individuality

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love and fear are strange partners
They have been together a long time
They know each other well
Where one is found, so is the other
Seeming opposites, they occupy
the same coin’s two aspects
and flip back and forth
as our hearts open and close.

 

I wrote that poem while embroiled in the most complicated relationship of my life. I often thought that it was like an Olympics of relationshipping, requiring huge stretches and leaps, unprecedentedly tricky psychological and emotional gymnastics, greater skills than I had ever had to develop before.

I did not stick the landing.

Last weekend I performed in one of our monthly dance salons sponsored by the Farfesha troupe. It was the Halloween edition, but I didn’t have anything specific to the holiday planned. Then it occurred to me that the gentle, lyrical song I was dancing to, “Lamma bada yatathanna,” was about one of the things that scares people the most: helplessness in the face of love and desire.

It ends by repeating Aman, aman… “Mercy! Mercy!”

Lots of things in this world are scary. Maybe it sounds a bit histrionic to say that love and desire are among the ones that give people the most serious cases of the heebie-jeebies. But as an empath, that’s what I’ve experienced. I’ve also been told about it in so many words, as in, “Sometimes I want to be close to you, too, but it’s just too frightening.”

With the anniversary of the sprained soul I sustained at the end of that overcomplicated relationship coming up, I am thinking again about love and fear. Can they be separated? Is it ever possible to have only love? I would say that this is the case with my husband and me, but then, there is always the fear of loss. Even though the loss of a person to death is not truly real— they only appear to be gone— the pain can be beyond what we can cope with, and that can go on and on. Of course we fear it.

I think that the fear associated with love is always a fear of loss— loss of control above all, perhaps loss of one’s definition of oneself. Fears about losing freedom, autonomy and safety are common, though in a viable relationship those things will not really be lost. All of these are in some way fear of change.

My husband thought I was a little nuts writing about love being frightening. “Well,” I said, “what about when a guy goes out with a girl and really likes her a lot, and then he never calls her? That’s fear, right?”

“Yeah, if she likes him, then he’s stuck.” (His life will change for sure.) “And if she doesn’t like him, she’ll step on him and smash him like a spider!” (Yeeks!)

In the case of my gymnastics partner, as far as I can tell, a fundamental fear was about having to change his view of himself and what was possible for him. He didn’t have the flexibility to manage that. I acknowledge that this is a pretty terrifying thing, and I don’t blame him for being nervous about it.

The fear that permeated that association, though, was beyond anything reasonable. It was pervasive and infected every moment. Every time I thought we had gotten past it, it reared its head again. It lurked behind every affectionate gesture and every sincere word of kindness.

All along I kept trying to identify and root out my own phobias and anxieties. I thought I was going through some intense and useful spiritual development. Being an empath, I was constantly attending to the messages beneath the surface as well as the overt ones. I came up with new skills and new methods to make sense of the odd things that went on. It seemed like all that would keep me out of trouble, but ultimately I was no better off.

It was an epic fail, and I can’t advise you on how to avoid the same. All I know is that when there is a choice between love and fear, the path of fear will never get you where you want to go. Loving more thoroughly, more clear-headedly, with less ego, is the better strategy, and that means applying love and compassion to yourself as well. It may be that continuing the relationship is not compatible with this kind of love, that the truly loving course is to let it end.

I remind myself that if something is impossible, failing to accomplish it is not a real failure. We know that no one ever passed the Kobayashi Maru test without cheating.

**************************************************************************

As I told you about last time, I had the great privilege to hear and meet Nadia Bolz-Weber at an event on October 20. I literally looked up to her— my goodness, she’s tall, and she was wearing 3” heels. Someone who makes no attempt to hide. She wasn’t always that way, though. Her book Shameless: A Sexual Reformation, which I’m rereading, describes her early life within a very repressive Protestant denomination.

 I was on the verge of tears all through her presentation that day, and wasn’t quite sure why. I felt that I had long since worked through the issues of shame and guilt and not-good-enough that she was talking about. While waiting for the event to start, I opened Shameless in e-book form on my phone, and my eye fell on the phrase “the inherent goodness of the human body.”

That is still an area of blockage for me. It struck me that for those of us struggling with or coming to terms with chronic illness, chronic pain, disability, or even just plain aging, finding ourselves in contention with recalcitrant bodies, it is hard to remember their inherent goodness. Even if we have cleared away millennia of religious asceticism and dualism that tell us our bodies are sinful and must be suppressed and disciplined, it can still be a real challenge to be friends with our physical forms. Rev. Nadia is talking about the goodness of the body in terms of its sexual and sensual nature, but there is far more to be found in that concept.

All this brings up questions of why we live in physical bodies to begin with, and what we are to make of our relationship with this physical world. But clearly our bodies are meant to touch other bodies, as Rev. Nadia points out. The desire to connect, it seems to me, can be seen in spiritual terms as a need to connect with our Source.

The dance of love and fear is based in the conflict between the desire for connection and merging and the desire for individuation. All beings want to connect and belong, and all beings have an innate drive to keep existing. The mistake we make is in believing that love and connection threaten our continued existence as individuals.

************************************************************************

A hypnotic choreography to the version of “Lamma bada” I used, by Lena Chamamyan:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxIj4ni07Q0&list=WL&index=6&t=0s

The song is a venerable one from the Andalusian tradition, in sama’i rhythm with 10 beats per measure. Here is one of many versions of the lyrics:

Lamma bada yatathanna… Hubbi jamalu fatanna
Amru mâ bi-laHza asarna
Ghusnun thanâ Hina mal
Wa’adi wa ya Hirati
Man li raHimu shakwati… Fil-Hubbi min law’ati
Illa maliku l-jamal
Aman’ Aman’ Aman’ Aman

https://lyricstranslate.com

And a couple of the many translations:

When he was bending, when he was bending (this means he is dancing or doing something graceful)
My love, his beauty struck us
Something about it captivated us
beauty, as soon as he began to bend

My promise, oh my confusion, my promise, oh my confusion
Who could be the one to alleviate my sufferings in love, from my torment, except the one of beauty
Oh mercy, oh mercy, oh mercy

http://www.arabicmusictranslation.com/2008/10/lena-chamamyan-when-he-looked-bent-lama.html

She walked with a swaying gait
her beauty amazed me

Her eyes have taken me prisoner
Her stem folded as she bent over

Oh, my promise, oh, my perplexity
Who can answer my lament of love and distress
but the graceful one, the queen of beauty?

http://www.qiyanskrets.se/lyrics.htm

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Filed under music, psychology, sexuality, spirituality

Post from the Past: New Beatitudes for a Hurting World

I wanted to share this post with you again, after having the privilege of meeting Nadia Bolz-Weber in person a couple of days ago at Las Puertas in Albuquerque.  She was speaking on the ideas she brought forth in her 2018 book, Shameless: A Sexual Reformation.  The book is about the ways the churches and other entities in our society tell us that we are too this or not enough that or we want things we shouldn’t have or we don’t want what we’re expected to want, why we don’t need to listen to any of that, and how none of it is the voice of God.  You should read it.  You’ll feel better.

Her “New Beatitudes” socked me between the eyes last year.  I was socked again hearing her speak, teary throughout, grateful, disturbed, filled with grace and new questions.  If she still had a church, I’d get there somehow.

The post from July 3, 2018 is below.

*************************************************************************

Sometimes social media, for all the trouble it causes and all the time it sucks, can bring real inspiration and even be a transmitter of grace. I am grateful to have encountered Nadia Bolz-Weber, an extraordinary Lutheran minister and founding pastor of the House for All Sinners and Saints church, in a video on Facebook. I hope it’s OK with her that I transcribed her stunning distillation of Christianity:

Blessed are the agnostics.
Blessed are they who doubt,
those who aren’t sure,
those who can still be surprised.
Blessed are those who have nothing to offer.
Blessed are they for whom death is not an abstraction.
Blessed are they who have buried their loved ones,
for whom tears could fill an ocean.
Blessed are they who have loved enough
to know what loss feels like.
Blessed are they who don’t have the luxury
of taking things for granted anymore.
Blessed are they who can’t fall apart,
because they have to keep it together for everyone else.
Blessed are those who still aren’t over it yet.
Blessed are those who mourn.
Blessed are those who no one else notices,
the kids who sit alone at middle school lunch tables,
the laundry guys at the hospital, the sex workers,
and the night-shift street sweepers.
Blessed are the forgotten,
blessed are the closeted,
blessed are the unemployed,
the unimpressive,
the underrepresented.
Blessed are the wrongly accused,
the ones who never catch a break,
the ones for whom life is hard,
for Jesus chose to surround himself
with people like them.
Blessed are those without documentation.
Blessed are the ones without lobbyists.
Blessed are those who make terrible business decisions
for the sake of people.
Blessed are the burned-out social workers
and the overworked teachers
and the pro-bono case takers.
Blessed are the kindhearted NFL players
and the fundraising trophy wives.
And blessed are the kids who step
between the bullies and the weak.
Blessed is everyone who has ever forgiven me
when I didn’t deserve it.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they totally get it.
You are of heaven, and Jesus blesses you.

(Line breaks and punctuation are my best guesses.)

After the tears ran their course and I could see again, I looked at the comments on her presentation. (You know what a bad idea that usually is.) And yes, there were those who had to let everyone know how much more theological knowledge and biblical scholarship they had at their disposal than this trained and ordained minister, who they instantly labeled as a heretic. There was even a heated argument about some translations of the Bible being valid and others being heretical. Way to totally miss the point, folks.

What I found particularly shocking— even though I rather expected it to come up— was the view that God will not forgive everyone, only some who deserve it. I’ve seen it before, but I’ve never gotten used to it. A God who withholds love is a very weird God for a religion whose adherents like to say “God is love.”

Some even said that it’s incorrect to say that we are not supposed to judge others, that indeed we should and it’s biblical to do so. But one doesn’t need to have a great deal of scriptural knowledge to remember “Judge not lest ye be judged.”

It surprises me to realize that the rather stodgy and ordinary Catholic parish I belonged to as a child somehow didn’t infect me with the controlling, judgmental spirit exhibited by so many folks who claim to be Christians. I might have expected Catholicism to be far to the more rigid side of the spectrum of denominations, but it often seems to be relatively open. Not always, but often. At any rate, I don’t think it’s only in recent years that I got the idea that Jesus’ teaching is more like Pastrix (her term) Nadia’s words and less like judgment and shaming and inflexible rules that no one can really follow.

The Jesus that Nadia allies herself with seems like the one I’ve met, the one you heard about here if you were around to read this a year ago: https://elenedom.wordpress.com/2017/06/21/you-know-my-heart/
Maybe that’s the Jesus you know too. The one who championed the poor and marginalized while criticizing the rich and self-satisfied. How can inclusion and forgiveness be heretical for Christians?

I wrote in that post: “Perhaps the people I am complaining about have tapped into a pervasive field of fear and judgment, just as I connected with a field of love and acceptance. I would suppose that it is absolutely real to them. I know where I would rather live, and I know which is more likely to generate a world that is better for all of us.”

And now I have to go and work on tolerance myself:

Blessed are those who sincerely read their holy books
even when they ignore the parts they don’t like,
for they are trying to make sense of a crazy world.
Blessed are all of us with our preconceived notions.
Blessed are those who hurt so much inside,
believing themselves to be flawed,
that they must constantly point out the flaws of others.
Blessed are the judgmental,
who find themselves to be unworthy.
Blessed are the spiritually immature,
who rely on being told what to think,
for they will grow up eventually.
Blessed are they who see evil everywhere,
because in their way they are trying to be good.

And blessed are all those who love anyway,
no matter what, without question, without ceasing.

 

The Sarcastic Lutheran blog: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/
http://www.nadiabolzweber.com/

3 Comments

Filed under spirituality

New Beatitudes for a Hurting World

Sometimes social media, for all the trouble it causes and all the time it sucks, can bring real inspiration and even be a transmitter of grace. I am grateful to have encountered Nadia Bolz-Weber, an extraordinary Lutheran minister and founding pastor of the House for All Sinners and Saints church, in a video on Facebook. I hope it’s OK with her that I transcribed her stunning distillation of Christianity:

Blessed are the agnostics.
Blessed are they who doubt,
those who aren’t sure,
those who can still be surprised.
Blessed are those who have nothing to offer.
Blessed are they for whom death is not an abstraction.
Blessed are they who have buried their loved ones,
for whom tears could fill an ocean.
Blessed are they who have loved enough
to know what loss feels like.
Blessed are they who don’t have the luxury
of taking things for granted anymore.
Blessed are they who can’t fall apart,
because they have to keep it together for everyone else.
Blessed are those who still aren’t over it yet.
Blessed are those who mourn.
Blessed are those who no one else notices,
the kids who sit alone at middle school lunch tables,
the laundry guys at the hospital, the sex workers,
and the night-shift street sweepers.
Blessed are the forgotten,
blessed are the closeted,
blessed are the unemployed,
the unimpressive,
the underrepresented.
Blessed are the wrongly accused,
the ones who never catch a break,
the ones for whom life is hard,
for Jesus chose to surround himself
with people like them.
Blessed are those without documentation.
Blessed are the ones without lobbyists.
Blessed are those who make terrible business decisions
for the sake of people.
Blessed are the burned-out social workers
and the overworked teachers
and the pro-bono case takers.
Blessed are the kindhearted NFL players
and the fundraising trophy wives.
And blessed are the kids who step
between the bullies and the weak.
Blessed is everyone who has ever forgiven me
when I didn’t deserve it.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they totally get it.
You are of heaven, and Jesus blesses you.

(Line breaks and punctuation are my best guesses.)

After the tears ran their course and I could see again, I looked at the comments on her presentation. (You know what a bad idea that usually is.) And yes, there were those who had to let everyone know how much more theological knowledge and biblical scholarship they had at their disposal than this trained and ordained minister, who they instantly labeled as a heretic. There was even a heated argument about some translations of the Bible being valid and others being heretical. Way to totally miss the point, folks.

What I found particularly shocking— even though I rather expected it to come up— was the view that God will not forgive everyone, only some who deserve it. I’ve seen it before, but I’ve never gotten used to it. A God who withholds love is a very weird God for a religion whose adherents like to say “God is love.”

Some even said that it’s incorrect to say that we are not supposed to judge others, that indeed we should and it’s biblical to do so. But one doesn’t need to have a great deal of scriptural knowledge to remember “Judge not lest ye be judged.”

It surprises me to realize that the rather stodgy and ordinary Catholic parish I belonged to as a child somehow didn’t infect me with the controlling, judgmental spirit exhibited by so many folks who claim to be Christians. I might have expected Catholicism to be far to the more rigid side of the spectrum of denominations, but it often seems to be relatively open. Not always, but often. At any rate, I don’t think it’s only in recent years that I got the idea that Jesus’ teaching is more like Pastrix (her term) Nadia’s words and less like judgment and shaming and inflexible rules that no one can really follow.

The Jesus that Nadia allies herself with seems like the one I’ve met, the one you heard about here if you were around to read this a year ago: https://elenedom.wordpress.com/2017/06/21/you-know-my-heart/
Maybe that’s the Jesus you know too. The one who championed the poor and marginalized while criticizing the rich and self-satisfied. How can inclusion and forgiveness be heretical for Christians?

I wrote in that post: “Perhaps the people I am complaining about have tapped into a pervasive field of fear and judgment, just as I connected with a field of love and acceptance. I would suppose that it is absolutely real to them. I know where I would rather live, and I know which is more likely to generate a world that is better for all of us.”

And now I have to go and work on tolerance myself:

Blessed are those who sincerely read their holy books
even when they ignore the parts they don’t like,
for they are trying to make sense of a crazy world.
Blessed are all of us with our preconceived notions.
Blessed are those who hurt so much inside,
believing themselves to be flawed,
that they must constantly point out the flaws of others.
Blessed are the judgmental,
who find themselves to be unworthy.
Blessed are the spiritually immature,
who rely on being told what to think,
for they will grow up eventually.
Blessed are they who see evil everywhere,
because in their way they are trying to be good.

And blessed are all those who love anyway,
no matter what, without question, without ceasing.

 

The Sarcastic Lutheran blog: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/
http://www.nadiabolzweber.com/
She writes books, too. I just preordered her next one, Shameless: A Sexual Reformation.

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