What I lost: Ruby Woo Reflection Post 1

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I’m still in the process of unpacking what happened during the Ruby Woo Pilgrimage because it was just so much in so little time. So in order to share that adequately with you, I’m going to start with before the pilgrimage. I’ve got some evolving thoughts on radical community and ways we should practice that here in our regular lives–especially as the church–without having to go off and experience it somewhere in as intense a way as a pilgrimage. Or in other words, I’d like to explore what it looks like to bring both the learning/stretching/growing experiences of a pilgrimage and the intentional community piece back and insert it into our regular experiences.

And I have some ideas what that could look like, and one I’m even going to be offering shortly to my local congregation, but I’d like to start a series of blog posts (that knowing me will be interspersed with other reflections as well) beginning with something Lisa Sharon Harper said on one of our prep calls.

In order to bring together 20+ women, most of whom were strangers to each other, we did some prep work via zoom calls the week before the pilgrimage actually began. In the second or third call, Lisa said something to the effect of, “Anything you lose on the pilgrimage, you never really needed.”

And of course I wrote it down, and then forgot about it. It was of note though because one typically thinks of these sorts of experiences as something you do to gain things and not to lose them.

For weeks after I returned, I was hard-pressed to come up with responses other than “It was really great!” when asked about the pilgrimage, and for something that had been touted as so life-changing I think people were surprised I didn’t have more to say. (That and they know me, so they were doubly surprised I didn’t immediately hold forth I think 😉 ).

It wasn’t until a couple weeks ago that I ran across my pre-pilgrimage notes and re-read that phrase that it struck me that perhaps what I had lost was equal to what I had gained and both contributed to the next phase of growth.

What did I lose, you ask?

I lost some of my anxiety and fearfulness over our current situation because I realized how connected our struggle is to so many struggles that have come before: ours is just the latest chapter. There has always been injustice and there have always been people to fight against injustice. There have always been dark times and there have always been people who banded together with their light to push back the darkness. Connecting our story to the stories that have come before puts so much in perspective. Of course it’s always hard to live through a story because we don’t know what the ending yet will be, though as a Christian, I feel our view of God’s ability to make everything new in the end gives us a hopeful ending arc even though we have no idea what the timeline for that is from our in-time perspective. More on this later, I think it could be its own post.

I lost some of my bad coping mechanisms because they paled so much in comparison to filling a deep need: like retail therapy (what little I could afford), and feeling dissatisfied with things like my trusty 2005 Camry with the oxidizing quarter panels and dent where someone backed into me in a parking lot years ago. Perhaps it’s strange but I just came back grateful for having something to drive, and lost my concern over what other people would think of me based on the condition or age of my car. I’ve also begun a cross-class dialogue circle and it really puts into perspective a lot of things on that front as well, inspiring both gratitude and a desire for economic justice. Also more on that later, it’ll take some processing to figure out what I’ve lost and gained from that, and it’s still ongoing.

I lost concern for the superficial and came back with a desire to figure out how to do some deep connections and intentional community on an ongoing basis. I think it’s something that on the whole we are missing in our society and need to re-engage in order to find our wholeness again. Again, more to come here as I figure out some ways to do this in my own life, but also in the life of communities I engage with, and also see where it’s already taking place and how that’s playing out in different ways in different places.

And I may have come out of the pilgrimage with more questions than answers, but I think that would be the final thing that I’ve discovered I’ve lost so far, and that is a dependence on answers. We all want to come across as having things figured out and put together and in reality none of us have it all figured out and put together. In the US at least, our myth of the self-made person and the ability to somehow pull ourselves up by our boot-straps… which, if I can interject for a second, is frankly silly as it’s physiologically impossible, so that should tell us something about its metaphorical value as well… but this idea that we can pull ourselves up by ourselves without reference to community or anything else I think makes us shy of admitting just how many answers we don’t have.

But we really really need to figure out how to hold the questions sacred, to find the right questions to ask, and then realize that the answers come from community. We were never meant to do any of this by ourselves. That’s one of the main driving factors that brought me back to the church after a dark night of the soul (and yes, that is so another post or series of posts).

So here are the threads that are starting to come together for me after now almost three months to reflect. One month for each day. Probably about right seeing as each day had so much packed into it.

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