it just takes a few healing words

In the constant busyness of my mind I am learning to discern that still small voice of God that is always whispering to us. I am learning the practice of Silence and for my ADD riddled brain, that ain’t easy! But he (for the lack of a better pronoun) spoke to me today. I have to set up what this conversation meant to me:

My ongoing Search for Real Church arises from my deep disillusionment of church community that has accumulated over the years. In spite of this (or perhaps because of it) I have grown to believe that the uniqueness of the Church on earth is her communal aspect. We reflect not only the active hands, voice and heart of Jesus -who is the most visible member of the Trinity- as we mirror his movement towards the world, but also the perichoresis, which is the dance of the Trinity itself. Jesus gave us hints about this stuff as he instructed and prayed for us. We are to love one another as we have been loved, which is a love that has been magnanimous to the point of being sacrificial. We are to know oneness as he and the Father know oneness. We are to be one so the world may know that the Father had sent him. Unity testifies to God.

This brings to mind the many horror stories in the world over forced “oneness” (really, uniformity), from the stripping away of souls by communist regimes to the exclusion of a gay teen from his small town church. But there is a oneness that we cannot manufacture or force. True Oneness can only happen with a kind of love that is described in the kenosis passage in Philippians 2, which describes the dance movement of God towards us. Jesus lays everything down, pours himself out, and joins us even in entering death, the deepest pit. Fortunately, the journey doesn’t end there. Resurrection and the substance of glory follows and hope is birthed for all. And fitting with our truest nature -our communal nature- I have come to believe the glory that we will realize flows from the ongoing making of all things new; it’s not merely for our own personal well-being. A healed heart wouldn’t be happy without the Other anyway. A healed heart gets itself out of the way, making room for the other.

Even so, we stubbornly continue to imagine our faith journey as one of ascent, of growth and gaining, and of things getting better and better for us. We see expressed it in our clawing and grasping and our shutting out of other voices in order to create what we want. Jesus addressed this as he asserted: he who would save his life must lose it, he who loses his life will gain it. It’s a weird paradox to move downward in order to move upward. It’s not natural. Duh.

Back at the ranch, we have been attempting shared leadership and so of course, our worst parts come to the surface. Dividing lines always appear- not only of doctrine and form but also between clergy (aka “professionals”) and laity (I gag at that word). There’s spoken and some deafeningly unspoken questions of who gets to hold the reins, who gets to set the vision, who’s involved, who’s “in”, who gets to decide who’s in, etc. Even while doing our best, the Church is still very often a place of competition, control and exclusion on many levels (frosted over with “nice” icing. Or “cool” icing if you’re Emergent.) I am convinced that the “leadership training” movement of recent past has damaged the church. It misses the dance of Philippians 2 entirely.

The result of all this for me is weariness and loneliness. The biggest temptation is to flee, throwing my conviction about loving each other in the crucible of transformation to hell. And so I bring my anguish to God. How do I lay this all down? I have been a therapist for years and have challenged many people to let go of their codependence and to not let people walk on them and use them. Is that what I am doing?

Then I find that while sitting with God, he gives me another dance step. It is, of course, a dance movement that feels downward. It looks like more loneliness and voicelessness. However, it’s not “put up and shut up” but wait with Me. With that comes the uncomfortable realization that this is not for “their” transformation but mine. Nevertheless, my experience with God has always been one of peace, even one of “holding”. This may sound like the “Jesus is my boyfriend” stuff but I am not sure how else to describe God’s presence as I have known it. But from that place comes the centering and sense of wholeness and inner intactness that I need to try and love again. So I stay.

Then I got this from Richard Rohr (Daily Meditations from

Nothing new happens without forgiveness. We just keep repeating the same old patterns, illusions, and half-truths. Sometimes the grace does not come immediately, but like Job we “sit in the ashes scraping our sores” (Job 2:8).

Sometimes neither the desire nor the decision to forgive is present. Then we must grieve and wait. We must sit in our poverty, perhaps even admitting our inability to forgive to the offender. That is when we learn how to pray and how to “long and thirst for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6).

I dare to hope that perhaps my longing for oneness and to be included in that genuine dance of friendship is actually a longing for righteousness – for things to be as they should be. As my friend Ryan says, to hope is to be poor, for we do not need to hope if we do not lack. So, sitting with God for a few minutes, I learn my part of the dance which is called forgiveness. And I gain the courage (for a little while at least) to be poor.


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Showing 4 comments
  • Jennifer

    Ellen, this is beautiful. Thanks for the metaphor of the dance and the thoughts about unity (vs. uniformity.) Some of the dance steps seem strange, unexpected, uncomfortable, and “wrong” and in the end turn out to be too good not to be God. I agree that sitting with God is the only place where I can find the centeredness to be poor.

  • Michelle

    “Sometimes neither the desire nor the decision to forgive is present. Then we must grieve and wait. We must sit in our poverty, perhaps even admitting our inability to forgive to the offender. That is when we learn how to pray”

    Sound like anyone you know? Hmmmmmmmmmmmm….

  • Barb Dokter

    Love you.

  • lindy

    Thank you for your wise insight.
    I am loving your blog.


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