Obstacles or Invitations?
Depending on the day, the hour, and sometimes even the minute, I find myself stuck or
inspired, many times, both at the same time. This dual pandemic of Covid-19 and racial reckoning that we find ourselves in, has me both undone and uplifted. The uncertainty, isolation, inequity, loss, school and travel disruption, disappointments, and disagreements related to this unwieldy virus are exponentially compounded by the
political and culture divides and racialized harms that are baked into all of our bodies through interconnected histories. It’s hard, tiring, shame-provoking, anger-making, confusing, deadly and scary.
Romans 8:36-40 reminds us “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I would add these to this list:
not Covid-19 nor racialized trauma,
not disagreements, nor sin,
not shame, nor cancer,
not poverty, nor privilege,
not weight gain, nor job loss,
not isolation, nor exhaustion,
not abandonment, nor displacement,
not depression, nor anxiety,
not addiction, nor greed,
not border walls, nor government policy,
not mental illness, nor acuity,
not hatred, nor cruelty,
not marriage status nor music preference,
not race nor gender,
not identity nor ability,
not distance nor proximity,
not clothing nor pet preference,
not political party nor religion,
not self-criticism nor pride,
not you nor me,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us
from the love of God
that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!
This morning I experienced these verses through the creative inspiration of my Cuban colleagues and partners in ministry. Having received intensive training in the Expressive Arts in Transition framework for nurturing resilience, this team of community leaders is creating expressive arts in transition designs adapted for children, youth, women, couples and senior adults. I offer them feedback and support. They hope to share the healing benefits they’ve experienced for themselves, by focusing on
pillars of resiliency: safety, calm, connection, efficacy and hope. Nkem Ndefo, creator of the Resiliency Toolkit and founder of Lumos Transforms, sees resiliency as bouncing forward. Instead of bouncing back from trauma, this is strength-based and forward thinking. It asks questions like, “What are we learning?” “Is what I’m doing to cope with this challenge working for me?” “If not, what might work better?” “What do we need to do together to be safe enough to play, strong enough to stay in the struggle, and confident enough to create something new instead of just fix what is broken?” By artfully exploring these questions, with all of our senses, using our whole selves: body, mind, spirit and relationships, we invite creativity to come. By moving through, around, under and over the obstacles, we make our way out of no-way.
When faced with the obstacles of Covid physical distancing and no Zoom access to continue learning and supporting one another, the Cuba EXIT group used what was available to them. WhatAp became the bridge that allowed them to practice more arts-based coping skills and co-facil
itation while Shabrae and I joined from the US. In real time, we all connected to the group via text and voice messaging. The co-facilitators practiced giving directives, invited us to check in and tend to our stressed bodies through breathing and stretching exercises, and recorded and sent music. We explored various art forms like imaginative storytelling, drawing, movement and music making all via WhatsAp. Instead of focusing on our limitations, we embraced the obstacles as invitations to learn. Together we discovered new ways of connecting relationally, new ways to honor our bodies and emotions and new ways to lead groups through arts-based activities. Acknowledging the situation and embracing the unexpected imperfection, we allowed ourselves to play with the possibilities that help us bounce forward. After one WhatsAp session one participant shared, ”I moved from being really distracted, to being present, relaxed and happy.” Another participant reflected, “A better world is possible if we dream and share.”
This afternoon I was once again inspired by the outpouring of honor given to John Lewis in a memorial service that lasted 5 ½ hours. Lewis was one of the “Big Six” leaders of groups who organized the 1963 March on Washington, and he fulfilled many key roles in the civil rights movement and its actions to end legalized racial segregation in the United States. In 1965, Lewis led the first of three Selma to Montgomery marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. In an incident which became known as Bloody Sunday, state troopers and police then attacked the marchers, including Lewis. He was first elected to Congress in 1986 and served for 17 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.
One of Lewis’ most iconic statements says, “Yes, I was beaten, left bloody and unconscious. But I never became bitter or hostile, never gave up. I believe that somehow and some way if it becomes necessary to use our bodies to help redeem the soul of a nation, then we must do it.”
We are invited to use our bodies to heal instead harm other bodies. A better world is possible if we dream and share. This is Good News! I can’t wait to see what will happen tonight! You in?
Yours on the Way in the moment,