Invitation to Brave Space
Together we will create brave space.
Because there is no such thing as a “safe space” —
We exist in the real world.
We all carry scars and we have all caused wounds.
In this space
We seek to turn down the volume of the outside world,
We amplify voices that fight to be heard elsewhere,
We call each other to more truth and love.
We have the right to start somewhere and continue to grow.
We have the responsibility to examine what we think we know.
We will not be perfect.
This space will not be perfect.
It will not always be what we wish it to be.
It will be our brave space together,
We will work on it side by side.
Published September 11, 2020 in “On Being“.
Since I first read this on the “On Being” website, it has been found that Jones plagiarized this from the poem Beth Strano wrote in 2015. Thus “On Being” has taken down the plagiarized rework of Strano (to see Jone’s statement of admission, see Micky ScottBey Jones Facebook page). Admittedly, Jones wrote her edition based on the image of a door of an anarchist group in Phoenix known as “The Sp(a)ce”. Though Jones tried to find the author, it wasn’t until her poem went viral that the original author was found… talk about an invitation to brave space…
Micky ScottBey Jones calls herself the Justice Doula; she is an author, speaker & facilitator and the Director of Healing & Resilience Initiatives with the Southern-based collective Faith Matters Network and an Associate Fellow of Racial Justice with Evangelicals for Social Action. Find her on Twitter at @iammickyjones
The opening line caught my attention for its honesty and its invitation,
“Together we will create brave space. Because there is no such thing as a “safe space” — We exist in the real world.”
I ache to be able to co-create brave spaces in a time of division and separation in my personal space and in the spaces around me.
Though it is the invitation to community, I believe the thread that connects us all to the desire to connect is the Triune God: Father, Son, and Spirit in expressive and eternal communion from which we gain, grow, and give each other the connection for which we were created.
At a Child’s Deathbed, by Willem Elsschot
Earth wasn’t forced out of its orbitWhen your little heart stopped beatingThe stars didn’t fadeand the house stayed standing.But all the wails and silent sobseven while drinking a comforting coffeecannot make your voice sound,or put the light back in your eyes.
Today I will attend the funeral of a son of friends of mine. He was a man-child, severely disabled and not expected to live much beyond age ten; but remarkably, with the love and care of his parents and so many others in his world, he lived to age 29.
Lyon lived and touched virtually everyone he came in contact with; he was alive with cogency and agency; he was a worshipper and a prayer. He was loved and loving.
In the time between his death a month ago and his funeral today, I caught an episode of a PBS series from Belgium, Professor T, in which the eccentric criminology professor repeats this refrain from a poem written by the late Flemish poet, Willem Elsschot. It seemed timely. He writes it as if to the child himself.
One might read this sad and blunt poem, and accept its reality. Others might howl at their loss as the writer for “Downward Slope“:
The world tilted wildly and shook. When I looked at the heavens, there were no stars. The house fell down around me.
Nevertheless we are not without hope, though we would fully grieve. We are not without joy in the memory of someone who lived and enlivened our world. We are not without the substance of faith in this curious and all too short life.
Both birth and death does this to us; we are destabilized and grab for something solid. It is a walk of increasing humility with the One who made us for Himself.
If you don’t want to, you don’t have to excuse the image above – but it is a stark reminder of what we know to be true. You may have known it personally, or have been around people who appear to live in the chaos of fabricated drama, bad news, and negativity. And how does a diet like this get ingested? We will have to admit eventually that we make these dietary decisions; we chose to eat the bad fruit of decay; we let social media scramble our minds and degrade our soul.
Thomas Merton put it another way:
Your life is shaped by the end you live for;
You are made in the image of what you desire.
It begs us to face the questions:
What is the end you live for?
What is it you desire?
Here is a bit of wisdom from the 17th century, well before social media and the frenetic pace of distraction we now endure. This is from a collection of “spiritual letters” written by Francois Fenelon. See if this doesn’t strike a chord with you now:
You should redeem some time from the world for reading and prayer. Try to rescue half an hour morning and evening. You must learn, too, to make good use of chance moments – when waiting for someone, or when going from place to place… seize every chance moment.
Take half an hour in the morning, and another half-hour in the afternoon, to repair the inroads which the world has made. And in the course of the day, make use of such thoughts as touch you most, to renew yourself in the presence of God…
Francois Fenelon, Spiritual Letters, 17th C
Redeem, rescue, repair, and renew are all ways of saying we need to be intentional against the destructive currents of our time. As it is written:
Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
In the mean time, do the work of soul repair, and renew yourself in the presence of God.
Francois Fenelon was born merely one of 15 children in 1651. He survived internal political antagonism of the Catholic Church in France at the time and wrote these spiritual letters with “discreet reserve and extreme hesitation.” His understanding of redemption runs through many of his letters.
For more see “Overfed and Undernourished?“
Does the sparrow worship you?
When making a nest in some hidden place
When laying a clutch
When anticipating the hatch
When feeding the insatiable
When watching them fledge;
Does the sparrow worship you?
Does the nuthatch trill to you?
Does the northern finch chant to you?
Does the chickadee twitter with you in mind?
Does the robin chirp and peep to you?
Does the ruby throated hummingbird hum her hymns to you?
Does the goldfinch plumage glorify you?
Tell me again, does the sparrow worship you?
Do they join in all creation to praise you –
Exuberant in their veneration?
Do they adore you with abandon?
Do they cherish you like a child?
Do they thank you profusely?
Do they receive you jubilantly?
Tell me again, does the sparrow worship you?
You who made each rachis and barb,
and imagined each feather and plume;
You who made the morning stars sing together,*
and the seas resound, and the fields exalt;**
You in whose presence is unspeakable joy,***
tell me again, is this what You made us for?
Spring erupted as it usually does with life and the return of song birds and blossoms. Our bird houses were fully occupied while seasonal visitors filled the airwaves with song, and beckoned us to join them in adoration of the One who made us for Himself. I suspect it takes Spring to energize us to keep worshipping throughout each season, though each season has all it needs to nourish our adoration of the One who loves us.
The Psalmist recognizes the congruity of the humble sparrow finding a home in the holy temple of the Lord:
Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.
May we be found, like the sparrow, worshipping the Creator God.
For more, see “Sparrow Symbolism & Meaning“.