I’m finding, as I go barefoot again, that my focus while walking has of necessity been shortened. I must watch where I will be placing my feet and can only look so far ahead before it is too much to be patterned into my movements. I’ve found myself taking different and longer paths, even when I’m in a hurry, because they are smoother, cleaner, safer. And I find myself grateful for the spaces I don’t need to watch my step, the clean smooth floors, the soft carpets. Grateful for the mundane and overlooked.
And I wonder, is this what it is be in poverty? To only be able to look ahead to the next pay check or the next cost, not able to see further because you might stumble in the near. To have to curb your walking to match more exactly with what is before you. To be more sensitive and attuned with the texture and temperature of where you step. To have heightened awareness of the small lumps and bumps of life, and to be more easily thrown off stride because of them.
It’s strange, but I find myself feeling more securely grounded when I am barefoot, able to be more fully myself.
It’s been a while since we had to live week to week, watching every penny, and I am grateful for that stress not being on us. But lately I’ve found myself pondering on what it means to live in poverty, in a spiritual-vow sense as well as the lack of money and opportunities. I know I have lived a privileged life, but what might it mean to choose poverty?
About a month ago I came to the decision to commit to only buying secondhand where possible (so excludes underwear, pens, notebooks, but includes clothes, furniture, books, homewares, etc.). It’s not just about choosing to spend less (and yes, it is a privilege to be able to make that choice at all), it’s also about embracing the odd and unmatching, inviting in the cast off and unwanted.
And isn’t that what we are called to do with people in the church, in the body of Christ? To invite in those who don’t fit, to work out how they can, how we can change so they can fit (not how they can change to fit us), how we can welcome and celebrate the differences, to learn from the bits that don’t match and don’t fit. To accept the awkward uncomfortableness of it all.
We aren’t called to only make church with people who match us, to only include those we like and get along with. Everyone, every body, has a place, so how can we make room? How can we welcome, and affirm and celebrate? Christ calls us into wholeness, and to do that we can’t leave parts of ourselves at the door, we can’t tell people they’re only welcome if… There will only be a place for them if… That’s not fullness of love and loving their fullness. God didn’t tell us to love only the parts of people we like. God told us to love our enemies, to love the parts of people that irk us and rub us the wrong way, to love the people who function in completely different ways to us, to love and cherish the bits of others and ourselves that we would prefer didn’t exist, to welcome all of that, to delight in it just as God does.
Equality isn’t “you can stand in the middle with me,” it’s “I’ll move to make room for you,” or even better: “let’s move the centre so you can reach it as easily as I can.”
We need to think enough of other people, in all their messy fullness, that we make room for them, go out of our way to make them welcome and invite them to celebrate their God-given fullness with us. God has shown us our worth, that was made clear at the cross of Jesus, now we need to show others theirs. It has to be more than just words on our church website or in the weekly notice sheet. Our actions, our provisions must say “there is room for you here, we have prepared a place for you.”
I think of D.L.Mayfield choosing to wear looser-fitting and more covering clothes than she used to so that her refugee and immigrant Muslim neighbours might feel more comfortable around her.
I think of our church and others providing gluten-free bread with communion so that all (or at least more) might be able to participate.
How else might we make room for others’ differences, how can we move the middle, to say “your fullness, the whole of who you are, is welcome here”? I’d love to hear your thoughts.