In order to reconcile myself to the difference I feel between Mr. Berry's observation of the world and mine — at my own risk, according to his prefaced warning — I listen to him as I would a prophet rising to an appointed calling, announcing judgment to all transgressors, calling us to change the way we live in order to be spared. He is a surly prophet, but better an ornery prophet than unmerciful judge. I would not want you, Mr. Berry, as my judge. You seem too convinced of my guilt before hearing my story.
Jesus spoke of a way of rightful being and living with God, people, and place. He gave it a name that the people of the time would understand — the Kingdom of God, and then He turned their notions of kings and kingdoms upside down and inside out. His talk of the Kingdom was not a once for all, clear as a bell theological declaration. It is, however, a creative means to reorient, even reestablish, what it means to be God’s kind of fully human person. That is, a person alive to a healthy relationship with God, His people, the land and all that is in it.
For a long time, I did not love poetry.
I read poetry. I memorized poetry to get me through a job that left me weary from boredom. I tried to understand poetry. But I didn't love it.
I loved words. Any words. Words in books, words in songs, words on the shampoo bottle. I loved stories — long ones, short ones, fat ones, skinny ones. I loved metaphors. I even loved select poems. But I did not love poetry.
We’re giving ourselves to these things, piece by very tiny piece. But before and amid all of that we’re giving ourselves to God and to each other. We’re relearning that we belong to each other already, that all things and people are connected. We’re creating space where we can remember who we are and whose we are — where we know we’re not alone.
I did not know then nor do I know now the full nature of God. No one does, but we’re given glimpses through the revelation of nature, the testament of history and its saints, and especially through the ordinary people who love us and mark our days. As a child my earthly father represented whatever goodness, safety, and unconditional love there was to be found in this world. And that has everything to do with why I call myself a Christian today, and can still refer to God as Father, problematic though it may be for me as a 21st-century woman.