reflections shared at new creation fellowship church
june 8, 2014
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i go to church ready to face my conditioned mind under a single light bulb in a small room, my inner children awkward and needing regular reassurance, my 40 year old self tired but often calm. a week ago we were invited to move through a guided scripture meditation where we would imagine ourselves in the story. i stopped my doodling…guided? meditation? imagination? i was in, had nothing to lose. after imagining the dusty ground, the beige colored clothing, the hot sun, we were invited to imagine the “holy spirit coming to us.” clear as day, the holy spirit apologized to me for not being enough.
a graspless, figureless, just beyond my sight yet right in front of me feminine power said, “i’m sorry i wasn’t enough.”
today i’m not sure if this is a whispered blasphemous confession or a testimony celebrating a personal encounter with the divine.
it wasn’t completely comforting to consider the holy spirit’s apology: i’ve worked for decades to believe that god’s will reigned over my entire life, including childhood sexual abuse and fear. i’ve held a white knuckle grip to the belief that everything happens for a reason, including repeated violation and limb draining fear. for the holy spirit to apologize for “not being enough” triggered my hidden-child-self, afraid-of-not-worthy-of-love-and-care to believe my fears were true: god had abandoned me, the power of the holy spirit was not enough to keep me safe, after all, even jesus died at the hands of those who hurt him.
a quote from laura truax hooked me: i see power differently now. power doesn’t look like domination any more. power seems to begin by imagining that a person can live differently. think differently. act differently. it’s an awakened imagination.
i. know. how. to. imagine. my imagination has kept me safe and sane.
through the past week i’ve imagined another possibility: the holy spirit wasn’t enough to prevent the actions of others. that the holy spirit wasn’t enough to overpower the will of humanity. i’m sorry i wasn’t enough to keep their hands off you. i’m sorry i wasn’t enough to remove your fear.
and that is the tragedy of children being hurt and scared and violated within the circles of neighborhood and church and family.
i spent a lot of my childhood escaping to imagination, time traveling back to reimagine my experiences.
in my role as director and teacher of new creation preschool, i continue doing that, along with an added drive to imagine what our space could provide.
there’s a two tiered attack of imagination: there is the overarching bow of imagining an experience for each child to be free of fear. there is the active role of imagining any reason why that might not be true and respond to that.
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he is small. he is told he is small. and with every remark, his anger seems to grow. the quiet comments snuck past us right to his source. first it was precision-like propelling of wooden puzzle pieces to the center of the foreheads of his offenders. a few months later it reduced to furniture tipping, anger transformed to the strength to knock tables over. months later still, a further reduction to a methodical slow quiet act of laying down every chair in the room. controlled, beautiful anger. and now, time has tricked me into forgetting that he ever did those things. his anger is shown through words and cuddling and is trusted with us. i’m not at all surprised, it was what i imagined.
she walks in and i spot her across the room. she’s arrived at the carpet landing before taking the final step down to the hard floor of our classroom. she has a dead center view of the entire space. i notice her mom behind her, her brother next to her. she is scanning the room and i notice her eyes stop. before i even glance where she is looking, i imagine what could have caught her eye…is someone there? is something there? does she see something she wants? i notice her mouth. it’s slightly open but her teeth look clenched. is she scared? was she unsettled before she even came in? i notice her eyebrows, smooth over relaxed eyes. her hands, limp but alive. is she concentrating? a mere split second has passed and now my eyes see what her’s see: someone is climbing on the shelf up to reach the bottle of oil and water on the windowsill, left from tuesday’s science experiment. is she afraid that he’ll fall or is she protective of the bottle that she helped prepare or is she irritated that someone else got to it first or is she surprised to see how the oil and water have separated…i imagine all of this in preparation to provide honor to her as i say, “welcome here. do you notice something happening with that bottle?” i imagine she does.
he rocks on the wooden boat, seemingly delighted to be in command. he yells with curled lips and furrowed brow and smiling cheeks. has has wrapped the red retro phone cord around his wrist as he calls for the restaurant to deliver him food-fast and he doesn’t want bread. he has two friends across from him equally calling orders, but yes to bread and no to juice. yes to pizza and yes to rainbow cupcake but no to a plate. the boat is theirs. the play is theirs. the game is theirs. i imagine myself like a wave, no matter how gently i roll in, no matter how subtle my voice, i will disrupt as i announce, “soon friends, you will be off the boat so other friends can have their turns.” the commander looks at me with the same curly lips but with now flat cheeks and says, “never! i am the ship driver of this boat!” “you are now and soon someone else will get their turn.” “never!” “soon.” i don’t know if they’ve sailed an ocean away or stayed anchored in place by the time i come back and make the transition. the commander’s fellow passengers leave their boat without comment while the commander tucks his toes under the boat’s seat and clenches his hands around the handles and the phone. “never!” “now.” he’s removed like a wiggly magnet from a post. his hands empty of everything but his power, he clenches them and clenches his teeth and his lips contract between curled and straight: “i am so angry at you.” “you wanted your turn still?” a near growl “yes” followed by “you will get another turn…pick what to do while you wait.” i imagine a roomful of possibilities, all of which will lead to him getting another turn.
they were lined up, 13 children like cats in a tunnel and i overhear a child yell at another teacher that he hated him. “it’s okay. here, here’s some soap to wash your hands.” about 20 seconds later, this little friend came smiling from the bathroom, as grounded as ever, sharing with others some joy filled story from his week, his hate forgotten. i imagine that the teacher took some of the fear of powerlessness and handed it back to him as love.
during this last year of my own journey of healing, a new friend visited preschool. she sent an email to me immediately after she left saying: “You are such a genius. All along you have been creating the space in which to heal yourself.”
i’m getting comfortable with that. i can see that i have used my own hyper vigilance for good, that the trauma in my childhood stoked a passion in me to save each child’s dignity. almost effortlessly, i imagine a myriad of reasons why a child might not feel safe in our preschool. in what can almost seem like mind reading, i tend to fears or concerns before they are even said. in what feels like shape shifting, i recognize the timidness and cautious joy. like a time traveler, i find possible scenarios that children are reacting to. i’m not ready to say that i needed to experience what i did to be the kind of preschool teacher i am. i am ready to say that it is my life’s fiery passion to create spaces where children feel safe. it is my wide hope that children sense their own power. it is my voice that longs for humanity to lean into the exchange of this holy power.
imagine warm playdough, colored golden yellow from turmeric that was added to the flour salt water mix.
imagine a child gives you a grapefruit sized chunk and asks you to make a ball. receive it and mold it into a sphere of warm gold. hand it back to her and imagine she squishes it. smile at her. she gives it back, asks you to make another ball. mold it into another sphere of warm gold. give it back and watch her roll it between two tiny hands, dimpled at the knuckles, until it’s long like a snake. she gives it back, this time asks you to make whatever you want. imagine receiving it: a warm, uneven, coiled opportunity.