Monday, August 15, 2016

The Feast of the Assumption and What It Means to Be Good Enough

Today, some Christians celebrate Mary the mother of Jesus being taken up into Heaven.

When I was very little, I was taught about the two Old Testament people who got to go to Heaven without dying (one was Elijah, and I can't remember who the other one was). We were taught that very good, very righteous people got to go to Heaven without dying--but interestingly, our class of little Lutherans was not taught about Mary's Assumption into Heaven.  Mary, the mother of Jesus--why was she left out?

My childhood Lutheran churches didn't mention Mary much at all, outside of the seasons of Advent, Christmas Eve, and the post-Christmas Sundays. As I've gotten older, I've felt a bit of mourning for all the celebrations and richness that we've lost in our Protestant traditions that were so eager to show how different we were from the Orthodox religions.

I remember hearing about the possibility of Assumption into Heaven, and I remember as a child wanting to be good enough for that eventual reward.  Clearly, my childhood self was not well-schooled in the concept of grace.

This past week has shown me that my adult self has much to learn about what the world expects, what I expect, and what is enough.  I went with a group of work folks to see one of us get an honor.  We were greeted with mango mojitos in the grand gathering area of the hotel, and for a moment, I felt sophisticated.

Later, though, I started to feel a bit worn down;  lots of stimulation, a sound system that was intrusive, and then there was the introduction of each and every woman getting honored as she walked down a runway.  I'm not sure when these women sleep, as they go out to restructure the way we offer English language classes to recent immigrants and rescue children victims of trafficking and raise their own expansive families, and invite foster children to join them--and I'm not even exaggerating some of their dossiers.  Do they have support staffs to keep their households running smoothly?  Do they work time into their schedules for self-care?

My own dossier is much less flashy, even though I have over two decades of teaching as an accomplishment.  I have changed individual lives, many of them, but I haven't changed social structures, although I've been part of groups working towards that goal.  I've written thousands of poems, but will that have any lasting impact?  I thought of what the announcer would say if I was the one walking down that runway--and boom, I spent the rest of the day in a quiet despair over having done nothing with my life.

My thoughts return to Mary, whom we honor today and throughout the year.  My younger self would have been uncomfortable with this veneration--after all, what did she do?

My older self wonders if I'm not too focused on the doing.  Mary was there and fully present in a way that so many of us never learn to be.

I have spent much of the week-end sleeping, which makes me think that maybe I am still trying to do too much, and not enough of it self-care.  Once again, I hear Mary's lessons, waiting for me.

The world is happy to let us flog ourselves into rags as we try to prove that we're worthy.  Even the church world is happy to show us examples like Mary, examples that regular women can never attain.

On this Feast Day of the Assumption, let us remember that these ways are not God's ways.  God loves us from the beginning, before we've done a thing.  God delights in us, not because we're worthy, but because we are singular creations.

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