Our Collect for today’s service begins “Creator God, from you every family in heaven and earth….”
Every family in heaven and earth. That is…a lot of make-up. Families are so unique in that they can be a single person with their dog; a family of 7 with two parents; foster families, blended families, childless couples, chosen families of friends; single parents; adopted families, church communities, and on and on and on…. It is also all creation as one human family—Indigenous/Settler/colonizer, Persons of colour/white, LGBTQ2+/straight…one enormous family.
And that makes for a lot…of dynamics. History. Experience. Perspective. Brokenness. Togethernes. Loss. Celebration. Coming together. Breaking down. Healing. Respect. Unity. Messiness. Pain. Love.
I was listening to The Red Table Talk, a talk show hosted by Jada Pinkett Smith, her daughter Willow, and mother Gammy. Husband Will Smith joined them in one episode to discuss Jada and Will’s marriage.
They spoke eloquently and brutally honestly, about how and why they reached a breaking point in their marriage, which demanded they redefine the relationship. They spoke about how despite the pain and hurt they were only just acknowledging they had been inflicting on themselves and each other, they also saw no reason for them to give up or to destroy their family unit, particularly their own partnership.
In the midst of their worst, they broke up, taking a step back from each other, taking time to figure out their individual stuff on their own—what they needed personally, and what they needed from the other. The distance they took during the period / phase first, allowed them to recognized their union wasn’t working and they could see what separated them: One of them had the desire to point fingers at the other…you did this…this is YOUR fault and the other was stunned and defensive exasperated: wait, we have ALL this…that…this is GREAT! What’s the problem?!
During their time apart, there was a lot of self-reflection, of research, of asking “what did I do wrong,” of acknowledging “oh man, I failed at….” They broke down and burned off all the fantasies that they had developed through their individual pasts. They removed their masks. And finally, by presenting their true selves, found the ability to be vulnerable with each other, to hear and see and understand the other, which led to a capacity to rebuild their relationship into something completely different that worked for both of them.
Despite that long winded story, my sermon is not actually about Jada and Will Smith’s family. But I think it highlights so poignantly that the ability to rebuild relationships, to dare to recreate your family into one that is safe, respectful, inclusive of all of its members—it is hard, it’s vulnerable, it demands honesty, and it can take a long time. But it can be done if what you choose is unity, wholeness, and unconditional love above everything else.
One of the things recreating ourselves, our relationships, and our families insists on, is reflection—on ourselves, our history, our patterns of behaviour, our deepest fears and hopes, our insecurities, our gifts, our failings…. Admitting and sharing our own stuff is hard. But listening to and hearing another reflect back to us our complicity…ooph!
We’re always told to “focus on the future,” “don’t dwell on the past,” “never look behind you…move forward.” I can agree with forward thinking, visioning and looking beyond. But I think we need to also glance back. We have to appreciate and validate and accept history, including our role and its impact. Sometimes, we’re embracing what was. Other times, we’re reflecting on what was, and why, and what we can do differently.
Here is where our opportunities reside. Our lessons learned. Our wisdom gleaned. Our beings strengthened. Sometimes our biggest and most successful steps forward come from daring to glance back and to make different choices going forward.
Our Indigenous siblings and partners have done their part. They have told us how they feel. They continue and continue and continue to literally unearth how they were treated, condemned, and their spirits buried away, to risk the reopening painful wounds by reliving their experiences for the benefit of freeing their spirits, and so that we can learn to be different.
So, as we celebrate National Indigenous Day of Prayer today, may we agree to honour each member of our human family, tending gently but bravely especially to our Indigenous siblings and partners. May we risk the discomfort of looking back…asking ourselves what role we play—directly or indirectly—in failing to recognize and respect the revelation of truth cried out from the First Peoples of this land. May we be open to learning the ways in which we participate—directly or indirectly—in the systematic oppression of indigenous sovereignty, language, culture and spirituality. May we learn from our role—directly and indirectly as Christians and Anglicans—in the Indian Residential Schools designed to eliminate the unique society, wisdom and beauty of the indigenous peoples of this land. May we admit to our complicit tolerance of the decimation of Indigenous family structures leaving children vulnerable to abuses of every kind. May we no longer accept by ignorance or indifference unjust legal, educational, health and social structures that continue to oppress and destroy the lives of many indigenous people. And when looking back threatens to leave us weary, may we remain faithfully, unwaveringly committed to the vision of the reconciliation.
“Creator God, from you every family in heaven and earth….”