[This entry is one of my recent pieces for my podcast which you can find here.]
Wendy writes, “I have sojourner tattooed to my leg.”
First things first, Wendy. Which leg and where on your leg? Color? Font size? Serif or sans serif? And do you have other tattoos?
Alright. Now that the most important questions are off my chest… Wendy, your word has developed a curiosity within me that has been both exciting and frustrating, neither of which are your responsibility. Truly, I’m not blaming. I’m attempting to explain why so much time has passed since first reading your submission and publishing this episode.
Sojourner is loaded–I didn’t know this before, before jumping from your one and 100 words to printing off and reading Sojourner Truth’s autobiography. To be a sojourner is, I think, to link your life with that of Isabella’s, born a slave and finally freed–freed more by her tenacity than by the will of her slave master. Isabella is the name her parents gave her. Sojourner Truth is the name she grew into, the name she gave herself.
Sojourner is heavy. Isabella’s story is the story of trauma, the sort that makes sense (if sense can ever be made) of suicide. How does anyone have enough, enough for whatever it is that keeps you alive, while in the middle of hell? No, not inconvenience or a few lows–hell. A seemingly irreparable separation from love, from God. That moment where the Son asks the Father why he has forsaken him. That hell. What I’ve read of Isabella’s story can be compared to nothing I have known, and what I’ve known has broken me. How she lived to tell her story is nothing short of divine intent, which is a confusing conclusion for me given what I understand of the nature of God. I suppose he does pick and choose?
Sojourner is long. Whenever I see the word, I see a road, the sort that keeps creeping around corners, the sort that switches back and forth in the mountain, the expansive straights along the plains. I must stay awake, toss a handful of almonds into my mouth or eat them one by one. Call the friend I know will leave me thankful and thoughtful. Quiet the music or podcast so I don’t miss the sun rise and set. Stop for gas and include a potty break–another station may not come too soon. And I listen–I’m not alone on the open road.
Grit seems insufficient for this journey. Maybe because if you make it plural you’re left with a bowl of mush. In truth, the trending concept seems to me self-centered though likely informed by the teachings of others. “I’ve got grit” seems a way of proving that you have something far more powerful than agency, something great enough to change systems.
Yet, the moment we speak to the good we possess is a moment that loses a focus on this truth: no matter how hard we try, we can’t fix everything. Since your “greatest spiritual growth and encouragement happened at a church named Sojourner,” you, Wendy, know this well.
I wish it weren’t so, I wish we could fix everything because the world has lost all sense. Surely, if at least 10 of us had an ultimate level of grit, we’d set in motion the greatest awakening. The picture in my mind is of open double doors, solid wood, impeccable hinges–no squeaks. And as the sunlight kisses slabs of oak stained a deep brown, I see a huge foyer that doesn’t seem to have an end. People begin to enter. It’s not a Black Friday-self-centered-rush but a toddler-confident skipping pace with which each body crosses over the threshold and just keeps on moving. No, no one is milling about near the doors; there’s always enough room as more come in. They keep coming and the air is filled with the sound of contentment and gratitude. You can also feel the smiles. All is well.
But all isn’t well. That’s why you have to leave home so often, right Wendy? You shower, put on decent clothes, and step into unknowns, preferably on a full stomach. Your dreams are big–a side effect of letting God be Lord, of recognizing his incarnation as eternal, of recognizing his generosity toward you and extending it to others. You tell yourself that wholeness, healing, and new creations are worth your commitment and you say so without hesitation or wordsmithed drudgery.
I imagine some days end with questions you’ve never had to ask and aren’t sure of how to have answered.
Creation is hard for humans. It requires asking for help, waiting, and making changes that we couldn’t anticipate. And whether part of the process is hard because we didn’t eat breakfast or because love is messy, we eventually return to our physical homes, take off our shoes, take a shower in hopes of washing off some of the discomfort, hop into comfy clothes, and reflect on what to do differently tomorrow.
Together, our muscles and mind say, “Let’s take tomorrow off” while we map out a to-do list and visualize the hours ahead–the day will be long, again and we’re trying to be ready for it.
You handle it differently, though, Wendy. You look at your leg and remember that all weary travelers need a good day’s rest.
I have “sojourner” tattooed on my leg. My greatest spiritual growth and encouragement happened at a church named Sojourner. The life of Sojourner Truth is inspiring and reminds me not to be complacent. But mostly, as a person who always longs to be at home, the word “sojourner” encompasses my calling to travel and bridge cultural gaps; to be inclusive and open; to trust that my home is always where God is, and God is always with me; and finally, to bring others along on the journey toward wholeness, healing, and the new creation we are all called to birth.