Women are quick to lift up the mask, paint on the mask…but the truth?
The mask can plaster on hard. It becomes a wall between sisters and only the brave take it off. But when the walls do come down and the stories come out and we are dazzled.
Maya Angelou tells this story in one of her memoirs, I forget which one. Women and men had traveled from tribes all over Africa for a PanAfrican conference in Egypt and it was culminating in a feast that led to a dance. Men and women were separated after dinner and though Maya was about to quietly slip up to bed, that was when the joy let loose. Across the hotel ballroom were all shapes and sizes and colors worn on the milky coffee to the ebony. There were tall Ethiopian princesses with high foreheads and rounded Gabonese with the wide hips that swung in circles as she walked. The music thumped and the voices soared and the colors swirled, each bringing the gift of their own tribal rhythm.
One gorgeous mass of a woman slid into the circle and brought out a white scarf, pulling it back and forth on the slight breeze of a body swaying. Maya watched as the others danced around her. When the tall Ethiopian jumped up straight in rhythm to the music, the others raised hands over her, celebrating the unique beauty.
This story appeared simultaneously in the minds of both my mother and I as we sat around a circle of women, sharing stories. It was a night of listening, of quiet, of the privilege of hearing the real. And after one gorgeous story after another, of redemption and rescue, our first inclination? We wanted to raise our hands over them, glory in the mystery of brokenness made beautiful.
Because our lives are full of broken shards but God makes art with the pieces.
No one escapes the hammer of a world turned against itself and we live shattered in a million jagged pieces. We walk around cut and try to put together the pieces with a good night cream and a pep talk.
The Open Circle was the innovative response of Annette, a spiritual director in training in Sinking Spring, PA, to her church’s desire for a new kind of women’s ministry. Sunday night she invited us to witness. We braved the piles of snow, the steep icy driveway and drove to Koinos Community Church, a Brethren in Christ church plant with a coffee house vibe. Chairs were pulled up in a circle around the front corner. A simple white candle was lit to remind us that Christ was present. We warmed hands around paper cups with hot tea and entered into the quiet.
Annette drew a circle of safety around the women: confidentiality, respect and the goal of listening, never fixing. Then she invited a single story, a young woman brave enough to pull off the mask, to show the years of scars, to lay out the broken pieces.
When the young woman told her story, she let the tears flow. But sitting in the chairs around the circle, all we could see was her story through the lens of His Light. We saw the colors swirl in a kaleidoscope. She laid out the jumbled pieces and we saw the veins of the work of God, the patterns in rays of glory.
The vulnerable call out the brave in us and around the circle the stories began to slide out one at a time. As she pulled out the broken shards, we all felt brave enough, safe enough to pull out our stories with the pieces that still puzzle. Real stories…not polished and published, not perfect and performed but raw. They had a jagged beauty like the rocks along the coast of Maine.
Mama and I, we sat back in wonder. We could hear the whispers of resurrection and it made us feel giddy. From experience, we know that the circle of stories is the setting where healing begins, where prejudice falls off like a shroud, where the Body of Christ can rise again.
We could feel resurrection power surging
and it made us want to dance.
We wanted to grab the tall girl with the textured scarf, the beautiful blond with the black knee-high boots, the Girl scout mom with the bright smile and all the others into a circle. We wanted to celebrate the hard fought stories of surrender. We wanted to raise our hands over the slight one barely raising her eyes, let our celebration rub into her soul. We wanted to delight in the broken made beautiful.
We wanted to dance in the lit up patterns of redemption and lift our hands up, worship the Kalaidescope maker.
Photos not from my iphone taken Sunday night were from this post about the Unchained Runway show.
Join me on this thirsty pilgrimage toward God where the broken are being made beautiful? Slide your email into the CONNECT rectangle on the front page. Let’s travel these winding roads together.
linking with diana trautwein and together we are pondering the pieces