Tag Archives: Enuma Okoro

Lent Day 15: Healing and Learning

During my morning prayers, I am also reading Reluctant Pilgrim. In the chapter I read this morning, Okoro writes about a man she was in love with, and unless her words betray her, I would say still deeply loves, or at the very least remembers fondly. She writes about his addiction in these words: “God’s light shines especially bright through the multiple and endless fragmented slices that exist in broken people. And the more rays of light, the more people are touched. But no one expects such light to come from a broken image. I learned to understand the radical beauty of God through Michael’s shards. I learned to acknowledge the beauty of God through my own brokenness” (77). When I read this beautiful description of brokenness, I realized why I have always loved that churches use stained glass to tell the biblical narrative.

Maybe the early stained glass artists were onto more than simply reappropriating the technique of mosaic with a new technology. The multicolored shards of glass work together to not only reflect and refract light, but they tell one cohesive story of beauty and grace. Each piece of art, carefully rendered with fragmented pieces of glass held together by that thin lead casing, each piece of art tells a beautiful story and needs each small fragment to tell it. I should look toward the stained glass to tell me about more than a biblical narrative; I should ask the stained glass to tell my own narrative, and to remind me that we all work together to form the body Christ, as weird and multicolored as it can be.

A few pages later Okoro writes: “I want to find a church that teaches me something about carrying each other’s burdens, about living into the gift of God’s grace so we are free to be the persons and community God calls us to be. […] Maybe I love the image of U2’s ‘Grace’ because it reminds me that God our mother eternally supports and nourishes us and, most importantly, does not punish us for being the needy creatures God created us to be. […] I don’t imagine that I extended grace to Michael. That would be presumptuous. Rather we both got caught up in the delicate but strong grip of God’s grace, that sense of divine love extending outside of God’s self and demanding humility from whoever falls into its arms” (80). I love this idea that we don’t extend grace to each other, and I never thought about how presumptuous it is to assume that we know anything about grace at all.

The idea that we just get caught up together in God’s grace is a profound one for me. I have always thought about giving grace to people, but not about mutually receiving grace, thought that’s exactly what happens. In fact, once I read this passage, I thought about Jesus saying that it’s better to give than receive. Why? Because when we give, we are simultaneously receiving. We can never only give grace, because what enables us to give grace is God’s giving of grace to us. We are inextricably caught up with others in giving and receiving grace.

In addition, maybe a lesson I am supposed to learn this Lent is one of humility. In the argument with my friend, humility was a learning point. In chapel yesterday, denial is a form of humility. Here, today, I learn that grace requires, no demands, our humility. How beautiful! If simply keep asking, God, what do you want with me? I have no doubt that I will eventually learn what it is God desires. I have no doubt that I am supposed to be a shard in the stained glass body of Christ.

Click the arrow below to listen to Nichole Nordeman’s cover of “Grace” by U2. You’ll also have to click the same arrow on the MySpace Music Player.

Grace (In The Name Of Love Album Version)

Lent Day 8: Remember Your Baptism and Be Grateful

Each day, I try to read at least a chapter from each of several books in which I am immersing myself at the moment. One of the books I am reading right now is Reluctant Pilgrim by Enuma Okoro. Okoro’s voice reminds me a bit of the writerly voice I strive for: honest, quirky, humorous, serious when necessary, and compassionately smart. She achieves this voice in a way that I hope one day I will. In tonight’s reading, her thoughts about baptism reminded me of my own:

It is fascinating to me as a writer that the portal into the life of God is through water and word. Somehow the Holy Ghost shacks up in our souls with a verbal lease-to-buy agreement (depending on your tradition), and we are sealed to God for eternal life. I’m not going to pretend I get all that. But I do find the thought of it absolutely beautiful. Whenever I hear the words “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever” during a baptismal service at church, I clutch my heart and gush as though I’ve just seen a baby panda rescued by a fleet of tiny forest nymph-like fairy angels.

I was baptized when I was somewhere around five years old after “accepting Jesus into my heart” at the ripe old age of four. I had no idea what I was getting into (had I known the many twists and turns my spiritual journey would take, I might have run away) when I asked my mom to pray with me in the living room of our small ranch home. She was sitting in the brown recliner, watching television, and I had been reading my Bible in my room. I remember walking out and asking her about being “saved.” She invited me to climb up into the chair with her, and I think I remember sitting on the foot rest portion of the recliner while she sat in the seat. I think I remember her praying a prayer of forgiveness and confession, and I think I remember praying it, line by line, after her. I know I remember feeling holy when we had finished, like I had done something life altering and important. I remember.

After getting saved, everyone knows the way to seal or bind that salvation is through baptism, so I was the youngest person in the membership class at Hartford City First Church of the Nazarene (we quickly migrated to Methodism). I learned the quick and dirty version of what it meant to be a Christian, and shortly after the class, all of us who had taken it were baptized.

I wore a little white sundress that might have had blue trim and possibly had some fabric applique fruits on the front. The sun shined warm on my summer-tan skin. The slight breeze kept blowing my skirt, as I walked barefooted in the sand on the beach at Taylor Lake. The water was thick and brown with algae covering the surface in spots. The beach was clear as the brightness shimmered off the calm surface. I felt so important. I was making a public profession of my faith in Jesus. I had somehow missed the part about dying to attain life; I just knew I loved Jesus and wanted everyone else to know it, too.

Having waded out until the water was about chest deep, I remember feeling calm, at home, peaceful. The pastor pinched my nose and covered my mouth with his palm. He spoke, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Dunk. “Amen.” I went under the surface, I was lifted back up, and I was a new little girl. I had been born, died, and resurrected in Christ. I was a new creation. The old was gone, and the new had come.

This moment is one of the many reasons why I love swimming and being near water, why it is my lifeblood. Each time I swim, I can remember my baptism and be grateful. Each time I look out the window to see the river across the street, I can remember my baptism and be grateful. When I think about the spiritual formula presented by Okoro, I realize why words are so important in my life as well: water and words are the portal into life with God. Through those two elements, I remember my baptism. Each time I remember my baptism, I renew my faith, and it is absolutely beautiful.