I learned a new spanish word back in 2012: Querencia… a place of safety, home, a place from which one draws strength, a place we all need to go to and be made whole, it seems: the Wanting Place.
At one time in my life, querencia had a very concrete, physical location. It was the interior of St. Mary’s Church in Opelika. A not too large space with cool, green carpet overseen by an oversized crucifix from the front and loved into peace by the gaze of Mary in the center of the stained glass window that graces the back of the church in the middle of the choir loft wall.
Even my skeptical, cynical self cannot wipe away sitting in a back pew and knowing that Jesus wrapped His arm around my shoulder and declared “Welcome home.” I know, kind of strange. Imagined. But, somehow undeniable and very concrete. I knew at that point that this place was HOME – Querencia – place of safety, place where I must go… my “flee to.” It has been a place of much laughter and many tears. In this tiny chapel of a church I have been ripped to shreds and made whole — sometimes it seems the shredding and healing were almost simultaneous.
There are a few places in this world where the veil seems very transparent and Love (and Love’s associate, Peace) are able to shine no matter what madness and darkness surrounds me.
But, life is a journey, and we don’t often get to keep the same Querencia, at least not in a physical sense. There are indeed those thin places and times, but I find I must seek Home in God, in all of creation and look for the times I am almost awake and aware of God’s presence. These moments become Querencia.
Friends came over to visit and have dinner the other night. Lives shared, good times together and one of our friends shared this story/idea from a Jesuit priest he had met on retreat:
Think of this: pick up an “empty” glass — what is in it? Nothing? No, not nothing — it’s full of air! Think of that air as sin ( or separation, or all of those things we do that are not good for us — annoying or bad habits, stupid stuff, whatever).
Fill that glass with water.
What happened to the air? Why it’s forced out, replaced by the water. If the water is the Water of Life, if the water is a walk with God, a growing spiritual awakening, in Christian terms it is the life of Christ in the glass… Aha! if you fill up on the water, there is no space for the sin.
So, don’t worry as much about the sin — fill up with God’s Love, with the Water of Life and there simply will be less room for other stuff. It’s not easy. I know — sometimes I want to shake up the glass and make sure I can mix the air back in just to keep it around. But, I think this approach could really work out well.
In 2013 I walked the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain. It’s a pilgrimage route that has been walked for nearly a millenium. When you walk 500 miles, carrying everything you think you need in a backpack that weighs well under 20lbs, you learn a lot about yourself, your friends, your stamina, your beliefs, and your God (if you use that terminology).
This election season has given me many reasons to rejoice in my experience of pilgrimage. I have needed to fall back on lessons learned on the Camino just to even try to walk through this election season. Things like: each person is on his/her own journey; there is no single way to walk through this world; things ain’t always as they seem; it’s okay to be uncomfortable (really, it is!);
But most of all, I have been glad that I finally found my voice. I no longer am afraid to have my own opinion, even when it conflicts with those of my family and people I consider to be friends (most of the time); I am free to look at the things that candidates say and to evaluate them for myself.
As a result, I am better able to step aside and try to be open to seeing those I disagree with through the eyes of Christ or a loving Father, It’s not easy, but it’s worth the effort. It doesn’t mean that I could ever vote for a Donald Trump, but it means that I am learning to try to see the fears that seem to drive those who would vote for him. Not succeeding in many cases, but open to trying.
In the second debate when Hillary Clinton tried to calm the waters by saying that she had no problem with Trump supporters, only with Trump I wanted to scream — I have a problem with those who support him. The fact that there are those who are fairly rabid supporters makes me worry… it makes me worry for our country and our world. It makes me sad that so many people feel disenfranchised and afraid. It makes me sad that so many people are afraid of “the other” (latinos, muslims, arabs, blacks, etc). The Great America that these folks seek is not a place where I would want to live.
I’m still working thru great disappointment and distress at seeing how some people I used to hold in high esteem seem to feel. I’m trying to find how to respect them again. It’s not easy. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail miserably.
2016 election blues — only in God is there a cure.
God for us, we call you “Father.”
God alongside us, we call you “Jesus.”
God within us, we call you “Holy Spirit.”
Together, you are the Eternal Mystery
That enables, enfolds, and enlivens all things,
Even us and even me.
Every name falls short of your goodness and greatness.
We can only see who you are in what is.
We ask for such perfect seeing—
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.
We went to mass at a place rather distant from my home parish this weekend. Distant as in miles, distant as in Presence. A nice blessing of the palms in the square in front of the church. A procession. A well rehearsed chorale accompanied by a pipe organ in mass. A leader of song up front. The Passion read clearly. Very brief homily. Lots of incense. A beautifully decorated and appointed church. 250 miles from home. The motions were very well carried out. It felt empty to me.
God is good. I am not asked to attend this church, or one like on a regular basis. I am invited to walk with Him in everyday events, or in a small (ok, tiny) parish without regular musicians. I am aware of God’s presence in so many ways. This distance of a cathedral with smells and bells is not insisted upon.
Thank you Lord.
I found the following in today’s email reflection from Richard Rohr:
We seem to think God will love us if we change. Paul clearly knows that God loves us so we can change. The only people who change, who are transformed, are people who feel safe, who feel their dignity, and who feel loved. When you feel loved, when you feel safe, and when you know your dignity, you just keep growing! That’s what loving people do for one another–offer safe relationships in which we can change. This kind of love is far from sentimental; it has real power. In general, you need a judicious combination of safety and necessary conflict to keep moving forward in life.
This is a “thank you” to those who have given me the time and space to feel safe, to feel I do have dignity and let me know that I am loved. I’m not going to name names, but I do thank you. I only hope that I can bring these things to someone else.