The Fifty-Eighth Letter: Holy Ground

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Dear Daughters,

I’ve been thinking about this calling to a sacramental life—a calling to seek the holy in the everyday humdrum and monotony of raising small children, of serving our neighbors, of loving our community or at least trying to, and in finding the cracks to shine the light in. This search for the sacramental keeps pulling me forward and revealing itself to me as the vocation that gives my life meaning.

Don’t get me wrong.

I like my—what should I call it?—“day job.” I love writing poetry and making art. I feel called to it. Most of the time I like proofing and writing articles, and I even know the joy of a nit-picky copyediting job well done, of the intense focus needed for InDesign formatting and layout. And, of course, many days, I love raising you and seeing you grow and learn and create and ask difficult, insightful questions. That’s part of my day job too. I even love chopping vegetables. Sometimes.

But all of these pieces of my life, as much as I am called to them, make up what continues to feel like the larger picture that is my vocation: seeing where the sacred breaks through.

Maybe that’s everyone’s vocation to some degree or another, I don’t know. But it feels real to me, this calling.

Your dad and I are making an intentional effort this calendar year to cultivate a habit of morning and evening prayer. The book we use, Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, has already walked us through some well-known Old Testament passages this first week of January.

A few days ago, we had Jacob discovering that “surely the Lord is in this place.” And he wasn’t even aware of it.

We had Moses being told to take off his sandals before the burning bush because the land he was standing on was holy ground.

The Lord was in that place.

That place was holy ground.

That place.

This place.

I remember learning in Introduction to Christianity, one of our required undergraduate courses at Houghton College, that a “sacrament” is a visible sign of invisible grace. (Google tells me that this definition is attributed to Augustine. Maybe so.)

A visible sign of invisible grace.

So the thing is, Jacob’s dream and his wrestling with the angel sound like exceptional moments of God’s interacting with humanity. Serious exceptions to the general, widespread experience of being a human being in the world.

And Moses before the burning bush sounds like a crazy thing that only happens in the Old Testament. It’s unusual to say the least. Even for the Bible.

History tells us that these are sacred stories. These are sacred stories of sacred places. Moments when God’s presence broke into our world. These are stories worth telling precisely because they are exceptional. The people of Israel told and retold (and still do tell) these stories to their children.

But you know what?

I’m not convinced these stories are exceptional, at least not in God’s presence breaking into our world, our time, our lived experience.

I’m convinced that God breaks through and reveals God’s grace to us all the time. It’s us. We’re the problem. We’re in the way. The stuff of life is in the way. The clutter is in the way.

I’m convinced that even our everyday mundane moments can be conduits of God’s grace, can be sacraments, can teach us something about God and the way God works and will continue to work in the world.

What we have to do is look for it.

What we have to do is see it.

What we have to do is proclaim it.

There’s an old-fashioned word for you. Proclaim.

Surely the Lord is in this place.

The place we are standing is holy ground.

Girls, I don’t know how else to say it.

That’s what living sacramentally means. That’s what I want you to see, to know. It might be one of the most important things I teach you. This place is holy ground.

It’s what enables us to love our neighbors. To welcome the stranger. To see that those who drive us the most crazy and make us the most angry are made in the image of God. Just like us. To understand that we aren’t special or privileged but as deserving of God’s grace as everyone else. Which means we are undeserving of it. And yet, God’s grace breaks in.

So I will proclaim it. Over and over and over again, I will proclaim it.

This place where we are learning to do life together? Yes, that’s what I mean. This place. It’s holy.

This community.

This neighborhood.

This shared driveway.

This dinner table.

This couch.

This swing set.

This dollhouse.

This snow-covered sidewalk.

All of it.

Holy Ground.

Love,

Your Momma

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