A MESSAGE FROM THE REV. J.C. AUSTIN: GOOD ENOUGH
Kate Bowler is a professor of the history of North American Christianity at Duke Divinity School, having studied at both Duke and Yale University first. She is a person, in other words, of considerable accomplishment, and her academic work is highly regarded in the circles of the academy.
However, she is actually much better known for her public vulnerability in receiving a stage IV cancer diagnosis at age 35 when her career was just taking off and she was also the mother of a young son. She wrote the book, Everything Happens for a Reason (And Other Lies I’ve Loved) to reflect personally and theologically on her struggle to come to terms with all.
In addition to having one of the best book titles I’ve ever encountered, her honesty, insight, and humor struck a deep chord with people well outside of academic circles, so much so that she stayed on the New York Times’ bestseller list for five weeks, which is very unusual for a religion scholar!
Since then, she has hosted a very popular podcast called “Everything Happens,” in which she interviews faith leaders and other public figures about what they’ve learned about themselves and life in going through difficult circumstances, and gave an extremely popular Ted Talk, which I strongly commend to you if you don’t have the time or energy to read her whole book (you can find it at this link).
More recently, she compiled a set of blessings for navigating the imperfections of life into a book called Good Enough, which is certainly a concept that many of us struggle with! The titles of the blessings vary from the seemingly familiar (e.g., “a blessing for courage”) to the pointedly honest (“a blessing for 2021 after a dumpster fire of a year”).
As I was thinking about our ongoing sermon series, “An Off-Road Faith,” I suspected that Kate would have a blessing that might be particularly well suited to this season in our life as a congregation. And I was right.
There were several, actually, but I thought for this week, as we prepare to consider “The Riskiest Thing We Can Do” in the sermon this Sunday, perhaps her “Blessing for the In-Between” might be a good one to sit with for a moment.
So many of us find ourselves in an in-between of one kind or another in our lives: moving away from a familiar reality into a new one that we do not fully comprehend yet. Certainly that is true of us as a congregation as we chart and move towards a new strategic vision together. So I encourage you to find a few minutes to sit with this in quiet; to “take a deep, cleansing breath” as Pastor Lindsey so helpfully reminds us to do so often before prayer, and to both pray and receive this “Blessing for the In-Between”:
Blessed are we, somewhere unnameable, fully present to our reality.
Tracking it, with all its subtle gradations and colors and contrasts, the sweetness and the struggle, the stuck and not-quite-fitting.
Authentic to it, mapping the full strangeness of the new emergent landscape.
Blessed are we, dear ones, not calling it too soon.
Not settling for the neat and buttoned-up, the too-tied-up, the not-quite-true.
Bless all of it, the way we might widen our gaze to encompass it and embrace it.
And bless you, moving into the unknown, waiting, daring to hope.
I hope you will join us for worship on Sunday, whether in person or online, as we continue to dare to hope!
Grace and Peace,