A Gift Offered in Faith and Love by Elise M. Edwards

elise-edwards“The day begins with the sun and ends with the moon and stars; what you do in between is your gift to the world.” – Reyna Craig

The new year has begun, and many of us take this marking of time as an occasion to set intentions, goals, plans, or resolutions for the year ahead.  For us feminists, the year ahead holds clear challenges.  We know that the bodies, spirits, minds, hearts, and souls of women, racial and ethnic “minorities,” and all sorts of vulnerable people will be attacked.  We know that the protections secured under the law for these bodies, spirits, minds, hearts, and souls have been eroded and continue to be dismantled in the name of… well, what exactly? Justice? Life? Religion?

We’ve seen voting rights eroded in the name of democratic ideals.  We’ve seen challenges to bodily autonomy in the name of life.  We’ve seen state-sanctioned murder in the name of law and order.  We’ve seen a rise in religious intolerance in the name of religious liberty.  Our work in this age must be to continue to expand our collective understandings of these ideals.  This is the gift we offer to the world.

This year—and beyond—I intend to live out an embodied, incarnational faith.  A faith with legs and arms and a voice.  A faith that literally moves me into new spaces.  A faith that kneels in prayer and stands up to be heard.  A faith that carries words beyond the page.  I’m scared to do these things.  But faith does not mean the absence of fear.  Faith means I have a power to persist anyway, in faith that a divine presence that accompanies me in these tasks.  So with fear and trembling, I will move and act and speak.  Audre Lorde has said it so plainly:

When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.

I’m so deeply, profoundly afraid of the world we are inhabiting.  Perhaps I should have been more fearful all along.  I am grateful that I was not.  This past year unveiled, for me, unknown depths to political hostility and persistent cultures of misogyny, racism, xenophobia, and religious intolerance.  I might have lapsed into an intractable state of defeat or cynicism at the power of these hateful forces, but 2016 revealed so much more to me than hate.

As the year progressed, I experienced a deeper and broader sense of God’s love and the interconnectedness of all of creation.  I started off 2016 with a plan to develop contemplative spiritual practices, hoping they would provide an anchor in my overwhelming, hectic life.  Although I was so imperfect at it, I sustained these practices well enough to discover what the great mystics have shared: when we seek the divine, we discover that it has already been seeking us.  In my Christian tradition, we call this grace.  My imperfect attempts to connect with God were met with the assurance that I was already, immovably placed in the heart of God, and in that, I experienced profound love and joy.  I know the power of that love is stronger than hate.

The past year prepared me for the year to come.  I enter 2017 with faith, hope, and love strong enough to carry me through fear, sadness, and doubts about whether the champions of justice will be heard or welcomed. I will continue to seek a connection to the divine through practices of prayer and liturgy.  I’m intensifying these spiritual practices, too, because I’m no longer seeking just an anchor in this world, but a lifeline to hold to as I walk through the storm.  And I’m taking some people with me.

Traditionally capable, as in: “Mama, I’m walking to Canada and I’m taking you and a bunch of other slaves with me.” Reply: “It wouldn’t be the first time.”

-From Alice Walker’s Definition of a “Womanist” from In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose Copyright 1983.

Elise M. Edwards, PhD is a Lecturer in Christian Ethics at Baylor University and a graduate of Claremont Graduate University. She is also a registered architect in the State of Florida. Her interdisciplinary work examines issues of civic engagement and how beliefs and commitments are expressed publicly. As a black feminist, she primarily focuses on cultural expressions by, for, and about women and marginalized communities. Follow her on twitter, google+ or academia.edu.

Categories: Activism, Christianity, Community, Ethics, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, Gender and Sexuality, God, Healing, In the News, Justice, Politics, Power relations, Resistance, Social Justice, Womanist Theology

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14 replies

  1. “It wouldn’t be the first time.”

    No it won’t! Sometimes I feel so weary…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, that’s why it’s helpful to remember what has happened in the past. I think even of things that seem basic now, like women’s voting rights. Voting rights are being weakened, certainly, but the very effort int he face of opposition–and SUCCESS! gives me hope.
      We’re all a little weary, but I hope we can encourage each other in this community. You certainly inspire me!


  2. This post brought tears to my eyes and courage to my heart. Thank you for sharing your faith, Elise!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. How could anyone whose eyes are open not be afraid? But Carol’s right: history shows us endless years and lands where, as you write, “unknown depths to political hostility and persistent cultures of misogyny, racism, xenophobia, and religious intolerance” reigned. I hope our communities–like this one–can help us remember to be strong. Thanks for writing this post. .

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I too am weary, but unlike you, not surprised that we find ourselves in this place. After the grieving passed I recognized that I also felt relief, that the internal darkness of humanity that has been masked by consumption and power over, is finally being exposed… At least now we have some idea of the enormity of what we are up against. If each of us can continue to stand what we see, perhaps there is hope for authentic change – no instant “transformation” ( I am so tired of that word) but a slow painful journey through the dark seems to be what is required…

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so right. It is important to see the enormity of what we are up against. Your comment about a “slow painful journey through the dark” is so evocative. I try to be careful about using terms like darkness and blackness in negative terms, and so I’ve been doing some reading on dark moons, night, dark goddesses, etc. “Darkness” can be a very fruitful time for rebuilding and recovering and renewing. It can even be a time of subversive acticity for a positive end. The quote from Alice Walker I had above has me thinking of the Underground Railroad. That certainly, could be described as a “slow painful journey through the dark.” In the darkness, the stars could lead the way. The stars are always there, but int he darkness we can see them. So perhaps we now not only see the enormity fo what we are up against, but those points of light that were also obscured.


      • You are right too. I try to be careful about using the dark in any negative light for the same reasons you do, but in this case, I think the word dark is appropriate because we are at a crossroads and we really can’t see the way through – or I can’t -. It is so important, and I should have been clear about this point to mention that darkness like light has both a negative and a positive charge. People seem to think that light is always positive but too much light can lift us out of our bodies in a really unpleasant way.


  5. I’ve never thought of this before, but when I read “FAITH AND LOVE,” I realized for the first time that love is a form of faith and faith is a form of love. But that is true also of the person I love so much and the faith I truly do have in them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • They are so interconnected. Thank you, Sarah! Today, I am going to be intentional about thinking of the people I love and the faith I place in them.


  6. Thank you for courage and grace, Elise. Even in Canada it is the anchor I need to keep faith with humankind while the politics of divisiveness play out in the country of my birth.


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