There we were. 15 weeks of asking how to create “Ecologies of Care.” 15 weeks of video taping care sessions, readings, in-class fish bowl exercises, video examples and one-on-ones. 15 weeks exploring the question of how to help people and how to know when we are helping people and when we are projecting onto people. 15 weeks of tension, break downs, break ups, break opens and break throughs.
Our final class. The professor, Rev. Dr. Kathleen Greider starts with her delicious stare across the room inviting any last questions. I mean, after all, what more could you want to ask after 15 weeks? We have one minute left. Last chance.
A single hand raises. She recognizes the hand.
“Uh, so… this might sound strange but…. How do we help people?”
The class laughs in solidarity at the request for more clarity on a topic we’ve been studying for 15 weeks. After all, there is a saying in this community—before you can construct, you must deconstruct. And some of us? Well some of us were less Cathedral and more… legos.
She leans over the podium, removing her glasses. We are breathless. Waiting. Guru on the podium top, oh ye with dry erase marker, what is it that you know.
She states calmly: “Know yourself. Know yourself, very, very well.”
And so it is with the divine. From my Unitarian Universalist reading of the Judeo-Christian Genesis, we are imagined from a God who leaned over the edge, and, before any dictation or brooding or breathing or experiencing or dialoging with that great, tehomic depth is struck—for to lean over the waters is to see your own face upon them.
Know yourself. Know yourself well.
Like a child leans over to see their own face in a Southern Californian swimming pool or the mother bear, who stands in the alpine stream waiting for the salmon beneath the waters to leap– or the ways each of us does when we walk by the store front windows and we catch ourselves, even if but for a moment, struck by the sight of our own embodiment, our own being on the street—to create we are first confronted with our own creation. To create, God is confronted with the mirror of creation. God is confronted with God’s self. Before this God could create, she had to be confronted by her own being.
Now, this isn’t tehomic-depths navel-gazing. I’m not talking pop psychology or the cult of self-care. This isn’t that divine mystery taking a selfie to post on Facebook. This is the confrontation, that world-inducing reality when we are forced to see ourselves as the starting place of the holy task.
I’m grateful for the story of a God who stayed with God’s self. Not doubting the worthiness of her procalamation. Not doubting the dignity she could bring singing over the waters. As children of non-profits and social movements and churches rife with misconduct and as students of a school hungry to figure out what religion and church means to this world so desperate for change and healing today—I am grateful.
I am grateful for the reminder that before there was the word, there was the recognition of worth.
May CST know herself. May our faith movements, our social justice movements know themselves. And may we know ourselves.
Very, very well.
A reflection written for the final Baccalaureate Service at Claremont School of Theology, May 2014 on Genesis 1.