Thurman on Reconciliation and Unhurried Tenderness

We cannot be in a hurry in matters of the heart. The human spirit has to be explored gently and with unhurried tenderness. Very often this demands a reconditioning of our nervous responses to life, a profound alteration in the tempo of our behavior pattern. Whatever we learn of leisure in the discipline of silence, in meditation and prayer, bears rich, ripe fruit in preparing the way for love. Failure at this point can be one of unrelieved frustration. At first, for most of us, skill in tarrying with another has to be cultivated and worked at by dint of much self-discipline. At first it may seem mechanical, artificial, or studied, but this kind of clumsiness will not remain if we persist. How indescribably wonderful and healing it is to encounter another human being who listens not only to our words, but manages, somehow, to listen to us.

From Disciplines of the Spirit

Spirit and Trauma (6 of 6)

I’ve sat with this book for a couple months beyond when I started reading it. So many things have occurred since I opened Rambo’s Spirit and Trauma. I’d like to conclude thinking about the book in a different way than I originally envisioned.

Rather than capturing her final chapter in a review that summarizes and suggests directions of thinking, I want to lift how the final chapter, “Remaining in Love,” may provide angles into the ethics of things. I’m thinking of differences her theology of remaining can make in the moment–in my moment.

I’m sitting at my desk, swirling in the day with notifications about health and sickness and, among other things, the coronavirus and recovering in the evening by balancing my beautiful boys’s needs, one of my last courses in the PhD program, attendance to my martial practice, and trying to sleep.

How does remaining as a theology work? In what ways might pneumatology impose or, better, invite us to a way of being in the swirling world of political fighting (and is this the normal political process now?), sickness and recovery, death, life, play, love?

Rambo suggests that involving the spirit in the life of remaining has direct meaning for time. Witness and proclamation impact views of time because reality links us “to another time” and not only this moment we’re in.

She notes that preoccupation with violence and death, both in our narratives and biblical reflection, as well as how we sit with life. In sitting with life, we sit and watch and rehearse death.

Rambo turns us to love and in doing so challenges this emphasis of what overwhelms our “vision of flourishing” and her work turns us to a “move to life,” even as that move has its own blind spots.

I suggest that the following may be particular ways to stay with the middle that Rambo discusses, ways that I’m sitting with her book and the gifts of it, ways I’m with it today. I’m not trying to explicate as much as integrate. I may be, simply, rambling, which is not different than any other post, I suppose.

First, I think slowing down becomes a way to engage in the middle time. Rambo’s work offers a theological articulation for changing my relationship with time. She settles in theologically and provides a theological bridge to endorsing the Spirit’s activity in different time zones.

Second, revisiting biblical reflection and theological sources for their resonance with this middle material feels real. The Bible says many things and much of theological scholarship deals with the words in it. But Rambo’s trauma lens requires an imaginative reappraisal of what’s not there. The middle, the unseen, the unspoken, and the unuttered–what’s there?

Third, remaining in love has an orienting purpose. Remaining connotes a way to honor the weird reality of being in-between, being with the Spirit even without the assurance of more victorious moments like resurrection or finishing or accomplishing or succeeding. Getting through it would relate to these finishing words, right? But remaining relates more to the prior moment, the more troublesome moment. Again, there’s the time part, but there’s the present element of being in that now which is stabilizing.

When Someone Matters

One way to know that people matter to you is how long you keep them–in your head, in your heart, in your spirit–when they bother you, when they hurt you. It’s one thing to drop and run. It’s another thing to be tripped by the fact of their mattering.

If you drop and run too fast, who you thought mattered didn’t. If don’t quite cut and run, if you don’t bolt, and if you move slower out of connection, something else may be happening.

If your feet are clogged by the dry and wet grasses of disappointment, anguish, and sorrow, perhaps you were good at a little word called love.

If you think of your students long after the ringing bell; if you consider the comment made and how pained it made your listener; if you remember, hours later, that interaction and its biting chump into you, perhaps you have evidence that you have loved.

Perhaps what happened in those relationships actually matter. Maybe what you built, created, and cultivated made a difference. Grant it and grieve.

Things Heard Daily

When I’m actively supervising a group of CPE students, it always impacts when I can get to my unit in the intensive care where I’m the unit chaplain.

When I’m not supervising, for instance, it’s easier to be with my patients because I have more time for patient care.

When I’m supervising students, I split my time between the pastoral education component of my work and the clinical chaplaincy with patients and staff.

The other day I was in the MICU, and I heard something that I hear whenever I’m on the floor. Have you ever considered what you hear on a day-to-day basis?

It didn’t occur to me that I heard this comment so much until that moment. A nurse was talking to another nurse and she said, “I’ll help you.”

I think a patient needed moving. They may have been readying for a procedure. I can’t remember the context, but the phrase stood up and jumped into my ears.

I hear it all the time. Nurses talking to nurses. Supervisors talking to students. Fellows talking to residents. When you spend your time hearing, “I’ll help you,” it turns you into a person who expects help and, maybe, who will be helpful.