I had to google the opposite of Durable Goods, because while these things are durable they are not sacks of flour or rice, not even one can of corn (my kids would be desolate). Also Durable Goods is an amazing book and I’m not sure what the protocol is on basically stealing a book title.
Google told me that consumables, or soft goods, are goods that are meant to be consumed right away. And with all the new friends I am making and the new people who may stop by, it occurred to me tonight that a lot of what I say only makes sense if you’ve been reading along for awhile, if you’ve been walking this Red Road with me. See, you have no idea what I mean.
While I do believe that every post, every short story, every novel, is a letter to someone (and most of the time I don’t know who), I think it’s helpful to be able to understand what I am talking about. It will enrich you. When people say things like this to me I am tempted to walk away abruptly or hang up the phone, but seriously, it will.
I talk about the Red Tent and the Red Road, I talk about traveling to Galilee and about campgrounds. If you don’t know what I mean, if you’re reading just the one post I probably sound like a raving lunatic (which I sort of am, I thought about walking into Wesco tonight and asking for free popcorn because I’d forgotten my wallet).
The Red Tent is a book by Anita Diamant, about a minor Old Testament character called Dinah. The tent is a place where women go when they are menstruating, or when they are giving birth. Only women are allowed in the tent, old and young. I have a Red Tent and it is made up of this lovely and wise community of women, we lead each other out of ourselves, we teach each other without meaning to. A lot of times the great and rippling folds of the tent fall when we are in the soup kitchen at church, because we are a group of women, many times two and three generations, and we are doing what women have done since the beginning of time.
It’s ok to feel liberated and feminist and not cook or clean, it really is, but I am the kind of woman who finds deep satisfaction in the preparing and serving of a meal, in making sure my work space is clean and tidy. The women who gather in my tent feel this way too, whether they are burgeoning women, on the cusp of all they will come to be, or arcing backward, or anywhere in between.
These are sacred moments, sacred words exchanged, smiles and laughs, ancient wisdom, because they belong to a tribe who have this common red thread of bearing the entire world.
The Red Road is the road that I feel I am on most of the time. I’m not sure if I’m headed to Jerusalem or Galilee, it depends on the day, will I preach or will I meet my ultimate demise? This is a road we are all on together, travelers. Do you watch the Walking Dead? If you don’t, you should, because it isn’t about zombies, it is about how people hold onto their divinity in a world that is broken; sort of applicable, huh?
On the Red Road we are called to leave behind most of ourselves; the selfish parts, the parts that are proud, the parts that are vain and cruel, the ideas and theology we were raised on, we are called to let those things drop into a drawer in the house we will leave for good like dull and beautiful pieces of sea glass. And then we shut that drawer and we walk away with only what we can carry, only the hands that we can hold.
It isn’t an easy journey, I am not a sweetness and light Christian.
The campground is a place shrouded in mystery and myth, and a place that we all go when we die. Is there a heaven? With pearly streets and gilded buildings? Do we have to wear white robes, (because I love coffee and am also good at dribbling things onto myself) and halos? Do we have to sing all the time? Is there a hell? Is it like Dante’s Inferno, many levels, each more gruesome than the last?
The question is: what can separate us from the love of God, and the answer is found in your handy dandy Bible – nothing.
Neither angels nor death…
And so I think heaven is a campground made up of these concentric circles, and at the center, on an island in a misty lake, is the throne room of God. I don’t believe that anyone, even Lucifer himself, is too far gone from the redemptive love and radical grace of our God.
So goes Chrysostom’s homily.
I think we all get to this campground, and I know that our loved ones wait for the sound of our voices once more, for the familiar footstep on the dirt path. And I think that we journey ever deeper into the love of our God, one. concentric. circle. at. a. time.
These things cannot be rushed.
I am learning this even as I fight against it.
I wrote about, in a rather intense writing session, being a vessel. How I could see myself, pale face and red Snow White lips, laying on a cot in our church basement, right under the Fallout Shelter Starts Here sign. How the IV bottle would drip a distilled version of my baptismal covenant into my veins, the calling to be a deacon, to hold steady the silken rope that binds forever the church to the world, and the world to the church.
How I would hold that line, stand in the midst of you and proclaim the gospel, send you out in service, and bring you the needs of the world.
These things have not changed, the needle is still lodged unpleasantly in my vein. But more ideas have come, more people have been met and befriended, more experiences had, questions raised.
They tell us at deacon school that they want to empty us out, make us examine every piece of lint, every penny in our pockets, and then to help us put these things back together. They want us to make up our own minds, to make our own way, to prepare the IV bottle that will drip, slowly, cc by cc, that distilled vision that called us to ordained ministry into our veins, having all the information now, all the facts, the backstory.
They want us to be sure.
I often feel sure, and am good at acting that way, but I very rarely actually am. I am sure and clear footsteps in my lucky black heels, on an errand, purposeful, and lost at the same time. The woods are dark, the path grows misty with fog, the way hard to see.
I am the person who will smile and make friends, but who prefers shallow relationships because I am inside my head all of the time, because I am afraid you will come to know me and somehow hurt me later.
I am the person who can write what she feels but cannot say it.
I am the person being emptied, each cherished idea and thought and memory being taken out of the rough wooden drawer, examined, kept or, painfully, discarded.
I am the mom who wants to see blood to explain screaming and fighting, who remains not involved (this will come to you if you’re new at this kid thing, I promise).
I am the person who sits at the end of the soprano row and is able to gaze at the ironic picture of a 78 year old man who has taught me what I am capable of, what I can sing and how to sing it, as he sits beneath the streaming light of the stained glass of a Lazarus window.
I believe strongly in redemption, and in atonement too.
Even for you.
Even for me.
And in a wide, wide grace.
I love you still (I will tell you this often, I feel it is important for you to know).
Thank you for letting me in when the wind was cold and making my patchwork cloak whip about me, when the rain was falling and I didn’t know why I had agreed to sing in a choir at all.
I’ll hold the door for you too, turn on all the lights and wait. I’ll keep a vigil.
And I know that you’ll come, because no one is beyond the terrifying love of God.
Not even me.
Let me feed you. These goods can’t go with us to the campground, they are too heavy to carry on the Red Road.