Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Faith, Fear and Family

My oldest sister Betty Jean Holmes - Woman of God

In this posting I want to talk about faith, fear and family. I have traveled from home in Chicago, IL to Atlanta, GA where I have been for almost two weeks. My original intention was to visit my sister, Betty, who is in the hospital and then head to the Grand Canyon with relatives for a much needed weeks vacation. When I arrived I realized that Betty's condition was worse than I realized. A surgery which she led us to believe was out patient now had resulted in almost two weeks in ICU. My younger daughter, Kaleema, had arranged to come down in preparation for the surgery and spend time with her aunt to help her out. This was despite Betty's protests that she would not need help.

Kaleema has now been in Atlanta for almost a month. I opted to revise my plans as I began to weigh the circumstances in consultation with my older daughter, Libra who also lives in the area. During this same time I was informed that a very close niece of my mother's (Hazel) was terminal and she had been given 2-4 months to live. The day after I was informed of her condition she was dead. That was a Wednesday. She was buried on Saturday.

This post is about faith, fear and family. When I was first informed of my sister's surgery, while not routine it was not serious. As her circumstances became more and more dire, due to complications, I began to grow afraid. I remember a particularly fearful moment that I began to pray for the strength and faith necessary to overcome the relentless fear that threatened to overcome me. I recalled when she went into surgery several years ago and she was in prayer with the medical team. She was such a strong woman of faith. She was my shero and example of a woman of God. When we needed or desired something particular we would call her and have her pray with and for us. She was the epitome of faith and belief in God. In my moment of crisis and remembering I realized that she was not able to pray for herself and that the least I could do was to stand in faith and hold at bay all the uncertainty as she lay on her sick bed unable to pray and call on the Most High. Too much was at stake! And I refused to allow my frailties to dictate for me my faith and to interfere with my ability to harness the powers of good in the universe. I began to call on and invite all that was good in the universe. You see, I believe that we have the power to manipulate and move energy and to heal. And in that moment I did not have room for disbelief! Too much was at stake! I could not have lived with myself if I did not call on all that I had within me to beckon the healing powers in the universe - if I did not at least do my part. I also began to minister to my daughter Kaleema when she called and she needed assurance.

Seven of my siblings and family drove down from Detroit for Hazel's funeral. On the way back they stopped by to visit Betty. The nursing staff allowed her to go outside for the first time since she had arrived at the hospital. We all stood around her bed in the gorgeous Georgia sun and under the blue sky and prayed over and with Betty. I know without a doubt at that moment that our prayers were received and a healing took place. There were too many prayer warriors standing and directing healing forces. Of course the medicine and the medical team helped. We are all team players in the great game of life. Why are some prayers answered and others are not? I do not know the answer. I only know that there are times when we invite the presence of the sacred and divine (ours and others) and we direct it toward certain ends and those ends manifest as we desire. Perhaps the outcome is already decreed. I do not necessarily believe that but I do not know for certainty. I just know that a theology that allows me to have some agency as co-creator is life affirming and meets my criteria for what is sustainable.

As we stood around my sister I realized that there were as many theologies and ideologies represented as there were individuals. I realized in that moment it did not really matter what we believed but that we believed and gifted her with the power of our presence, our love and our beliefs. Our loving energies represented a healing balm as great as the doctor's medicines. We invoked the presence of good/god/ancestors and gifted her in that moment something that neither science or humans have been fully able to discern and articulate; prove or disprove.

Death and near death experiences have a way of stripping away everything but what is most real to us. I know family is real. If you come from a large family like mine you probably have dysfunctional and functional aspects present in your family. No doubt you have some pettiness and bickering. And you have moments like we experienced when everyone came together. The family members that live in Atlanta have been visiting Betty. We have pulled together despite our differences; despite personality conflicts and differences of opinion. Adversity has a way of bringing out the best and worst and setting aside the rest. Our vision becomes crystal clear about what is and is not important. My moment of crisis when I was afraid that I could not find the power and presence within me to call forth the blessing and healing that Betty needed; the moments when Kaleema and I were bickering over small and insignificant things; the moments when I wanted to strangle the faculty back home. I realize that when I do not constantly claim and know my truth then I act out my sense of despair. My initial paralysis was brought on by the unconscious realization that my journey as a minister had not here-to-fore required me to really stand in my power and know my truth - to stand on it as if my life depended on it. To stand on it and know that I know that I know! I was scared! What if I am not up to it! What if I am just playing! What if! What if! My bickering with my daughter is my fear - fear that I do not see or cannot hold faith that her good is manifesting and that the next step in her journey is being worked out even though I cannot see it. I have to also know when to let go and let God and all the powers in the universe take over and take control.

Fear is a powerful emotion. It does not serve us except in a very primitive manner. It alerts us to danger. But we cannot let fear dictate our actions. We have to hold fear back and say like Jesus, "Get thee behind me."

The entire ordeal has given me insights into myself and the need to continue my spiritual practices of prayer and meditation. In those spiritual practices I want to focus energy toward letting go of my fears. I realize how much they hold me back and how much I am a prisoner to my fears. I cannot even imagine my life without fear and what I might be doing if I did not allow my fears to hold sway over me.

But the fear and the faith are intimately entangled. If I have faith then I could release the fear. If I could release the fear I could have faith. whew! I am knowing and claiming for myself a release from these fears: fear of failure; success; happiness; intimacy; and loving relationships. These are just a few that I have let rule my life. Fear of being out of control; of loosing control!

Finally, I have grown to really appreciate family and family connections. I say that I understand the bonds of family. But it has taken Betty's illness and Hazel's death to really appreciate it. Sitting in the little church in South Georgia swatting the pesky little gnats in the midst of all the family and friends gathered to see Hazel off was a testimony of her legacy. And while we do not want to wait until death I did think I want my friends and loved ones to gather and say good bye to me, to tell stories that represent our connections and the legacy that I lived.

All of us want that to some degree or another. Not the send off! One of my sisters does not want any kind of ceremony at all. She wants all of her stories and flowers shared in life and not death. No, what I am talking about is that we all want a legacy. We want to know that our life mattered and that we did something that registered that we existed and that somehow no matter how small that we made a difference.

Question: What difference are you making with your life? What fears prevent you from living fully and making that difference? What family members have you failed to reach out to and to tell them that you love them? What will you be remembered for in your death?

Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah