Coming to Believe

I wasn’t expecting this. It came on unabashed, in wonderment, the spoils of a struggle long fought. I’ve been in the trenches for so long. Dealt with chronic illnesses, traumatic brain injury, Depression… Poverty, addiction.

But I went to visit my children and grandchild and was granted a precious, infinitely tender time with all of them. Now, for perhaps the first time, they see me as someone they are proud of.

It is hard won. In so many ways I failed them, squandered time with my own concerns. Not on purpose, there has never been a time when I deliberately betrayed their needs. I just couldn’t get out of my head and body to just be.

My son and daughter commented on my quietness. I must have filled past moments with nervous chatter but there was no need now. I am wholly inside myself, comfortable with who I am.

But more than anything else I feel gratitude. I have been blessed with remarkable people in my life and my children are chief among them. How they emerged so whole and intact I don’t know. They certainly didn’t have good models to learn from. We went through our wars and they didn’t let them warp their lives.

This change has been coming for years but rose in assurity with my finally believing Jesus Christ is my savior and the Son of God. It changed me in fundamental ways I have only begun to understand.

I know this may seem giddy to some but I’m happy and that is sustaining me. There are roots in my life that go beyond superficial trappings. And I know life comes in waves but I now have a life raft to save me. God has a plan and I am in it.


Forced Sterilization in the US

The US has a subversively checkered past regarding the issue of forced sterilization. Throughout the twentieth century and even particular cases in the 21st, women were forced to give up their reproductive rights, most of the time without their knowledge.

The 20th century brought a rash of sterilizations of those deemed detrimental to society. What this translated into was Mexican Americans, Native, Persons of Color, Prison inmates, the Disabled, those deemed promiscuous and those considered Mentally Defective.

From 1970-1976, 25-50% of Native American women in a range of Tribes in their child bearing years were sterilized, often directly after giving birth. Some as young as age 10 were impacted. In Mississippi it was known as a “Mississippi appendectomy “. Two girls undergoing tonsillectomies came away with tubal ligations. Generally speaking, doctors enforced the cutting of Fallopian tubes or hysterectomies, often under threat of putting existing children into foster care and taking away welfare benefits and food stamps.

Puerto Rican women also experienced eugenics. Thirty percent of women were unable to have children by 1965. The governor at the time said there were too many unskilled laborers and not enough jobs on the island. Sterilization ended up becoming the preferred choice of birth control. This was a major upheaval of the country’s largely Catholic society.

Mexican American women were victims of this edict as well. They were considered inferior with their children being “drains of the system”. Mexican immigrants were considered as being of low moral character sexually and criminally. Plus their children were considered “anchors”.

Women of Color were similarly held to a different standard than white society, particularly those of low income status. In the first half of the twentieth century, 60,000 people were sterilized. There were 32 states that empowered officials in medical, social work and state institutions to sterilize those considered “unfit”.

From 1897-1909, several states enforced sterilizations on those with mental handicaps. In Buck vs. Bell, Carrie Buck was sterilized because she was labeled promiscuous after being raped and becoming pregnant. With an IQ of 75, she was considered “feeble minded”. Her child was taken away from her and judged an imbecile when but a few months old. When she grew up she was sterilized. Carrie’s mother had her out of wedlock and Chief Justice Wendell Holmes decried that three generations of imbeciles in the same family was enough.

Certain states are considering reimbursements to these women but no amount of money can make up for a lifetime of missed opportunities and joy. And forced sterilizations are still happening in some cases in prison populations. The U.S. needs to make restitution and unequivocally end this practice.


Belief

You caught me unaware

I’d given up 

On ever receiving

The understanding 

of your grace.

And now its come

what was there all along

but only now I know it

Acceptance . . . the fight as gone out

it has no reason for being

All I had to do was see

to feel your grace

to know you are

all that has been said of you.

Thank you in leading

me down the road 

to know you are God

and Man both

Jesus Christ

my savior

Newness and strength of belief

Christmas is an infinitely precious time for me. In the past it made me so want to believe in Jesus Christ.  This year I have the quiet glow that comes from finally believing. It was a long held prayer that seemed eternally elusive.  In one weekend and ongoing reading of Luke, I came to understand the historical reality of both Son of Man and Son of God. 

I know that for many belief is a fervently ecstatic state, joyous, free, and uncontained. They want to shout out their vision from the rooftops. But it doesn’t surprise me this is a more subtle faith. I’ve spent so much time jaundiced, I need time to recover, to accept and feel it flowing through me. 

But the power of the Bible is undeniable. I am seeing the words as if for the first time.  I still don’t  believe the Creation story replaces Evolution.  To much archeological evidence flies in the face of the story.  But a little part of me also understands that throughout the world cultures and tribal societies have their own creation myths and there is a striking similarity between them. 

Still, I’ve come a long way in a short time.  It is still rather tremulous, no, it’s not. It is a real belief and understanding.  It’s just new and while a young belief it is not fragile. Yet going to spend the holidays with born again, steadfast Christians is threatening. I have a tendency when faced with strong preaching about anything to run the other way. So as much as I am thrilled to be staying with my family, I don’t want to contend with the Rhetoric. 

If only rhetoric could be separated from belief. I’ll find more solidity in the Bible.  I just need to give it time 

Boxes

Boxed in – no fancy ribbons

just cheap imitations

sold at the local dollar store

Boxes tighter

claustrophobic, choking,                                                                  

“for your own good” and yes

we are worried about liabilities

a danger to any who may pass you

and, of course, you yourself.

Meanwhile boxes are continuing

to slip one inside another – seamlessly

gasping for air, understanding

resolution . . .

Yes, yes, there are reasons

whether simple or profound

this brain is rattled, aching, worn . . .

but what of those wild women

who lived on the edge

defying societal norms –

smoked their cigars, wore pantaloons

conducted torrid affairs, never

afraid to break away, defying expectations

Could I be one of these?

ride a horse, a motorcycle, a jet

daring authorities to stop me

Yet, I’m a good little soldier

compliant, scared

angry at them, at me,

for maintaining the status code

gasping to breathe –

suffocating – these boxes

will surely kill me

which, I suppose, is

the tightest one of all.