Some days, you just need a reminder that there are people in this world who follow God’s breadcrumbs against all the odds and do the work needed to transform their little corner into a living expression of the Kingdom of Heaven in this world. Last night I had the chance to listen to just such a person, the Rev. Becca Stevens, founder of Magdalene House, a residential program that “stands in solidarity with” women who have survived lives of prostitution, trafficking, and drug addiction as they come in from the streets and changes their lives. And next, out of a need to support these women and this work, and to teach the skills needed for life on their own, Thistle Farms was born, born out of the idea of that the sacrament of blessing (the age old rite of anointing with oil) becomes a lived reality when you embrace the true meaning of these words:
That’s right…that’s all there is to it. The best, the strongest and the most meaningful teaching, I think, always comes with the fewest words and last night’s event was full of those kind of words. Love heals, the ultimate lesson of our faith. We saw the fruits of that healing love in the stories of the women who came with Rev. Stevens, in the pictures of the women from Rwanda who make essential oils as a way to heal themselves and their world after the experience of the Rwandan genocide, in the pictures of people coming together over coffee and tea at the Thistle Stop Cafe, raising up the lives of others as they eat and drink together.
And then, there were these words, which I think might have been meant just for me:
Healing is a practice
Okay, I know that they were not meant just for me, but we all feel that way sometimes, don’t we? The words in the sermon that seem to write themselves in flame across our hearts, the words of a song that ring over and over in again in our soul? Well, last night, those fire-filled words aimed at my soul were these: Healing is a practice. Not a process, not a destination, not a gift, not a thing to be bestowed upon us — but a practice.
Practice, to me, not only suggests something that is ongoing, but something that is completely participatory. Either you are all in or not, and if not, then it simply is not a practice. And another important distinction between something that is a process and something else that is a practice? That it is ongoing, never ending, always incomplete, always becoming. I very much like the idea of putting the idea of healing in that framework; that construct bathes the idea of healing in a beautiful light of hope that is simply not present if you think that “being healed’ is a destination to be reached.
Most of all, a practice, particularly a practice like healing, is a sign of hope. The day may be dark, the road unsure, but if you continue your practice it means that you still have hope. And for women who have survived abuse and abandonment, who daily face exclusion because of criminal records and economic disparity, the idea that they can imagine the possibility of a future for themselves is the most amazing healing of all. And a healing that must be embraced and nurtured each and every day that they draw draw a breath of life.
We all know brokenness of some type, because, well, we are human. These women, however, taught me the greatest healing lesson of all, though — that our own experience of that healing practice must be shared, shared with the woman (or man, or child) who still has not taken that first step. As Rev. Stevens writes in her recent book The Way of Tea and Justice: Rescuing the World’s Favorite Beverage from Its Violent History (2014), for those of us who have been helped, “Now it’s (healing) is about taking the stories of brokenness and weaving them together to form a tapestry of hope for others (pg. 6).”
Nothing explains this idea of healing better than the story of Shana, who works in sales and was with us yesterday evening. Shana’s story was powerful, but it was her sales pitch for the beautiful scented candle that brought me to tears. Buy this candle, she said. Buy it and do as I do with it. Every morning, I light this candle. I light it so that the woman out there, the woman who now lives this same story, can come in from the streets, like I did.
Yes, of course. I bought a candle. And yes, I lit it this morning. I lit that candle for all those in this world in need of a healing practice in their lives. And I will light it again tomorrow, and tomorrow after that.
I will never again think of a thistle as a weed. Magdelene House and Thistle Farms, healing the world, one woman at a time. I needed inspiration and yes, I received it. Let the healing continue…