Thursday, April 2, 2015

"take these broken wings…"

"take these
broken wings
and learn to fly…"

This is my favorite song. This is my favorite version of my favorite song. Sarah McLaughlin's cover  of "Blackbird," from the "I Am Sam" soundtrack speaks to something in me that is deeper than bone.

This post is all about innocence. It is about purity. It is about sorrow. It is about resurrection and redemption. It is about a spiritual path to reclaiming what seems forever lost.

When most people think about lost innocence, they think of choice. We are led to believe that staying a virgin -- staying pure -- is something that a girl/woman chooses to do. If she has lost her virginity -- her innocence -- it must have been her choice. 

But for some it is not a choice, and the losing of it happens long before they even know it is something that they have.  Long before they learn it is something to be cherished, protected, or shared.

These are the little girls who have been violated without consent. They are the children without a childhood.  The ones who mourn a ghost self.

They are the girls who weep in secret, the girls who cut to feel, and starve themselves to prove they have some modicum of control in their lives. These are the women who read about lost innocence and wonder how it must have felt -- to have ever even glimpsed something so precious in themselves. They are the women who ache when they read about abstinence contracts, chastity pledges, and purity rings.  These are the girls who feel disconnected from themselves.

These are girls who dream of what they never knew. And for them, it isn't about a moral line crossed or a physical boundary broken. It is about a deep desire to know one's self as sweet and pure. To feel full of hope and promise and innocence.

For most of their lives, many of these girls feel like that blackbird who sings with a broken wing. Yes, they have learned how to act childlike -- but to truly know and feel childlikeness, is another matter altogether. You see, when a grown man begins violating a girl before she even enters puberty, it doesn't really feel as if something has been irrevocably lost -- just never known.

She wanders through the landscape of childhood -- one that should be filled with learning, and play, and imagination -- with a cloud of dark knowing, brooding over her at all times. She feels like a liar, a pretender, a fake in the vast pink kingdom of fairy princesses and happily ever after.

Her heart doesn't leap at songs like "If you're happy and you know it clap your hands." Her heart rips open - like a raw wound - with the first strains of "Blackbird singing in the dead of night…"

These girls discover that there is rarely somewhere safe to turn. Often, when she "tells," she is not mended, but broken further. When her tears spill over onto another's pillow, she is accused of darkening their path with the underbelly of society's horror story. 

Some women report that they wonder how to protect their loved ones from the pain and distrust that seems to come out of nowhere -- the confusion and anger that percolates just below the surface. For them, disassociation, divorce, death can often feel like the only way to save those they love from the sharp shards of their own shattered hearts.  

There are countless stories of brokenness - here and abroad.  Not all are dramatic and shocking.  Not all make us turn away in hopelessness and helplessness -- or even disgust.  But these girls with broken wings live among us. And their stories need to be redeemed -- and can be redeemed.  Mine was.  The particulars of my story are not important -- only that for many years I believed it defined me as someone who was irrevocably lost.

But this was where Love, divine Love -- God, found me. This is where the story of a crucified savior and a woman who had been saved -- saved me. 

I know that there is much academic speculation about whether Mary Magdalene was actually the same woman who washed Jesus' feet at the Pharisee's house. But this scholarship doesn't matter to me.  What matters -- and what mattered then -- is what her story meant to my heart decades ago on a cloudy spring day.  A day when I had lost all hope of every being worthy of love. 

You see, I needed to believe that a weeping girl of questionable reputation and broken innocence, washing the Savior's feet, was the same woman who kept vigil at the foot of the cross, and waited at the door of the sepulcher. Her story gave me hope. It saved me.

In my secret heart, I knew that I was just like that broken girl. But I also sensed -- in that moment -- that I could be just as courageous as that expectant, grateful woman.

Throughout my girlhood, an undaunted hope had lived just beneath the surface of my secret self-loathing. I'd prayed that I could find an innocent child buried within the rubble of my broken-ness.  I'd search "before" photos for a glimmer of her childlikeness.  I thought if I could find innocence in her eyes it would be familiar and I'd be able to remember how it felt and connect with those feeling.  But I never could.  I had all but given up hope of ever really knowing what it felt like to be a child.    

That hope was was kindled into an enlightened faith with the Magdalene's story. I realized that I not only could be saved from self-destruction, but that I actually had value beyond simple self-preservation.  I glimpsed that the resurrection of my own innocence could serve Christ's timeless mission of healing and salvation.

In reading her story, I glimpsed that this woman "out of whom Jesus had cast seven devils"  actually served as a reliable, vital, and unshakeable witness to the immortality of Life -- of innocence. She must have been unwavering in her certainty that what had been resurrected from the ashes of her own deadened life, was only a glimpse of what was true for Jesus. 

 It must have been absolutely unthinkable to her that Christ's life could be destroyed by hate. The resurrection of her own crucified purity had prepared her heart.  She was able to hold watch at the cross and an unwavering vigil at the sepulcher, while she waited for the inevitability of his resurrected life.

Her once-broken wings gave flight to humanity's hopes   -- and they were lifting mine two thousand years later.

Realizing that Mary Baker Eddy launches her chapter on "Christian Science Practice," -- or metaphysical healing -- with this woman's transformation, I have clung to her story  as scriptural precedence for a life redeemed -- and purposeful.  She has taught me how to serve Christ. She has unfolded for me a well-trod path towards reclaimed innocence, purity, our individual and collective intactness as daughters of God.

So, what does this Easter story mean to me -- it means we are all innocent. It means that her resurrection, was part and parcel to his resurrection. And that his resurrection was the promise of our resurrection -- each and every one of us.  We are all untouched by evil.  Inviolable in grace. We are children of God. Just think of it -- you are a child of God.  I am a child of God. I am an innocent, a babe, a pure sweet girl in the eyes of my Father who has given me wings to fly.

In a hymn written by William MacKenzie are the words:

"she knew the Christ,
undimmed by dying..."

I know this Christ.  It is alive in me -- undimmed by dying, unsilenced by hate, unstoppable in Love. This Christ is the resurrected, ever-alive innocence in all of us.  It is the untouched purity, the inviolable hope which assures us that we are never lost, never broken, never entombed in the past.  For me, this is the Easter story that lives each day.

offered with Love,


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