Dedicated especially to Deirdre and Sheena ….. and all who persist....
" The big talent is persistence." Octavia E. Butler
It was Saturday night.
I had completed my study of the Luke 8: 42-48 passage about the woman who suffered with hemorrhages and made her way through the crowd to reach Jesus and receive her healing.
The sermon was written, ready to be preached.
The preacher ….. not so much.
The message was titled, "Para Ella que persiste" (Translation - For She Who Persists)
It was prepared and packaged for delivery on Sunday afternoon.
The messenger who was assigned to make the delivery …. not so much.
There was no conflict with the passage or the message …. it really was the messenger.
The messenger was messed up ….....
It was literally the midnight hour and I simply didn't feel like preaching .... at all.
Yeah …..... I said it.
I wasn't feeling it …. at all.
That was my truth, and at that moment I felt the weight of the week begin to wear on me.
A few days earlier, I received news that morning that a close and special sister friend had transitioned. We met shortly after I moved to Indy years ago and instantly claimed each other. I can honestly say that we were consistently spiritually and emotionally present for each other. She lived her life freely and fiercely early on, surviving an early bout with cancer and leg amputation. Nevertheless, she persisted. Dee was a mother, wife, sister, confidant, mentor, preacher, womanist, talk almost everyday, seminarian, revolutionary, pastor, foodie, restaurant guide, partner in ministry, travel partner, beacon of light, life giver, truth teller, dancer, secret keeper, expert detective (smile-insider), justice advocate, teacher, writer and that was just the tip of the list. . Dee's life was an embodiment of Nevertheless she persisted.
No matter the circumstance, you're still not quite prepared when it happens and along with an entire community of her family and friends, I was devastated, stunned, confused and still am numb. My spirit knows she is at peace and in no pain. But my human heart aches because I miss my sister and my friend.
This right here.....
The irony is that later that evening, I was scheduled to celebrate the Bon Voyage journey of my treasured friend Sheena's yearlong work assignment that would take her overseas.. She was one of my first friends in Indy and we also instantly claimed each other. She and her family embraced me from Day 1. Our celebration would take place in three spots around the city and culminate with a night of dancing. In retrospect, I am glad that both were on the same day. I celebrated my travel partner,master dancer, analytical genius, problem solver, yoga teacher, eat-pray-love living, running through the streets of New York, creative soul, truth teller, bohemian spirit, no more Khaki pants warning (smile), zip lining, parasailing, risk taker, trailblazer , and she who persists Sheena. My day started with mourning and literally ended with dancing.
And that's exactly what Dee would have wanted, "Sheila, you never pass up a chance to dance."
But that Saturday night, I found myself drained ..... emotionally, mentally and spiritually exhausted.
For She Who Persists .......
But I realized in order to prepare to preach, I would have to channel the persistence of the woman in the text. She was a woman who didn't want to stay in her condition. The custom was that women in her condition were considered impure and anybody that came into contact with her was affected. Nevertheless she persisted and was in the midst of a crowd. That meant pushing her way through the crowd, focused on reaching Jesus. She pushed past the confines of her own comfort zone, society's expectations on women in her condition and her own issues. She was propelled by her quest not to remain in that same condition.
That's what kept her moving forward.
As I reflected on the text, I realized that preaching this sermon was going to call me to push past the confines of my own discomfort, society's expectations (and my own self-imposed expectations) about being transparent about acknowledging our feelings. But then I realized that I would be able to push past these issues, because I was propelled by a collective community of support.
That's what kept me moving forward.
It was in the Saturday midnight calls, through the thread of text messages and prayers, the wisdom of seasoned preachers who reminded me that every preacher ,at some point, has been in that space. My father telling me that when this moment happens, you literally tell God what you're feeling, be transparent ,lean completely into and surrender to God's direction. My sister telling me that even if my heart isn't there, to step aside and allow God's spirit to be there. It was the flashback to the memory and image of my pastor ,standing at the pulpit ,transparently sharing that he was struggling to preach that morning and how within seconds, the leadership immediately surrounded him in prayer. It's in my friends who provided the sanctuary of a safe space and judgement-free zone where I could simply pour out, be vulnerable and express how I felt … unedited, unrefined, uncensored, unrestricted, undiluted and raw.
It's in the persistent voice of my Angel Sister Dee, who would remind me, "Girl, you know God has got you, allow yourself to be in this messy space and be real with Her about how you're feeling ….... and that is what will make it AWESOME. (No one could say and mean the word awesome like Dee!) The message can come out of the messiness"
It was in the Sunday morning sermon at my home church that I watched via Ustream as I prepared. The guest preacher preached on "Fallen Angels", reminding me that in spite of our imperfections, we are still called and loved by God. It was in my sister's morning Facebook Lenten reflection asking God to help us resist keeping self doubt, fear or anxiety as a constant companion. It was in Kierra Sheard's "Hang On" being played in heavy rotation all Sunday. It was in my sister accidentally dialing my number while I took a quiet moment to briefly step out of the sanctuary and give me the prayer that I needed. It was in my brother checking on me to make sure I ate and got some rest.
For she who persists ….
So by the time, I made my way to the pulpit Sunday afternoon, it was because I was propelled by an eclectic community of prayers, texts, calls and support. In the midst of the woman's story, I was transparent and mixed in my parallel journey of pushing past through this week. The sermon that God planned for me to preach was nothing like the one that I had prepared and packaged. My midnight experience was meant to be part of the sermon …...
In the midst of the messiness and in spite of the messenger, the message emerged.
At the end of the sermon, a sister came up to me, who was visiting for the first time and through tears, told me that she almost didn't come to church that day. But nevertheless she persisted and was determined to push past the obstacles…........ and by the time she finished telling me her experience and what she pushed past to get there ..........we were both weeping. She preached to me.
For She Who Persists....
When I arrived home after service, there was a package waiting for me. I opened it up and...
I see you Dee ….... she even looks like you. I'm calling her my Nevertheless She Persisted Dee-Shirt or Dee-Shirt for short.
I can hear you say,
"Now, Sheila, you do know that you totally have to write about this right?!?"
Writing it now....
Nevertheless she persists,