Faith & Fortitude: Long Hard Winters

by Teresa Pasquale

What-To-Expect-When-You’re-Expecting

Life can often feel like a steady stream of preparatory exercises. Expectation is something us westerners are good at; patience is an entirely different story. We get spastic and frantic and impatient waiting for the next big thing to arrive; well, at least I do.

The thing I love most about Advent is that it reminds me of the beauty of waiting. It reveals the deliciously precious gift of time and space and breath and prayer. Advent allows me to revisit and reinvent surrender in new and beautiful ways, and each Advent reveals a different aspect of waiting and a deeper revelation of my own call to wait.

In some ways when I was living in New Jersey the strengthening of expectation was more palpable; there was a necessary spiritual muscle mass built in early mornings scraping windshields, praying that I hit glass before my fingers went numb.

In my last four years living in Southeast Florida both the weather and the waiting has become more nuanced. My own experience of spiritual winter is intensely internal, but no less the season for it. Much like the Florida winters, there is change, although the out-of-towners might not notice.

The Long Hard Winters

This last winter I have a new pen-pal. Well, usually we are more like text-pals. He is in South Dakota and I in Boynton Beach. His name is Rev. Harold Eagle Bull and he is the rector of the Wanikiya [Messiah in Lakota] Episcopal Church on Pine Ridge Reservation and we met this past Memorial Day when I attended the Taize Pilgrimage of Trust on the Rez.

We are nations away and yet on the same continent. My winter consists of the occasional light breeze while his includes torrents of ice, whipping wind, and zero-degree nights in substandard housing.

My Advent is his Advent and yet the image of his waiting, his patience and his kindness, and the suffering for him and the Lakota people seems like such a different winter. In his winter, in his kindness, in his periodic texts of roadside buffalo and the church cross, riddled with bullets from the 1973 Wounded Knee incident, he reminds me of the icy northern winters and brings a new layer into my expectant Advent.

He reminds me what faith is, what fortitude is, and makes me consider what it might look like to weather the elements when and where there is no room at the inn.

Pine Ridge Reservation is a third-world nation at the heart of a first-world nation. Their heart beats like a lone drum in the wilderness a reminder to me of what it takes to be born into nothing, and engages my limited sense memory of frozen limbs in northern winters.

New Birth

Each Advent we are given the opportunity to find our way to new birth, but it only comes at the end of a winter of waiting. The waiting, like everything in the story of Jesus, is as important as the birthing.

Faith gestates in the winter nights–both those in the gentle breezes of Boynton Beach and in the harsh winds at Wounded Knee.

In Advent we are called into a place of spiritual fortitude, bolstered and intensified by how God speaks in our lives. This year and this winter, I find that voice in Harold and on his heart for his faith and people on Pine Ridge Reservation–a place where it is not hard to recreate the memory of not enough, of cold nights, and of manger births.

The following is a poem I wrote recently [after a training class on The Doctrine of Discovery–teachings about the history of Christianity and colonization]. It is a hopeful sentiment about giving voice to hope, hope to the hopeless, and holding our heart close to the fire-warm glow of God’s presence in our lives while retaining the spiritual sense-memory of cold nights and manger births.

Winged creatures. Holy things. These divine aspirations. These hopes, as they take flight.

Watch them rise. Watch them rise. Watch them rise.

Like nothing I have ever seen before. Like nothing I will ever see again, in exactly same way.

Watch them rise. Watch them rise. Watch them rise.

The earth is shaking under their orbit. These hopes, these divine aspirations.

These movement-makers. These world-shakers. These grace-quakers.

Watch them as they rise.

They are the faith of the present, and the truth-bearers of your future.

They are holiness. They are light.

They are our voices together saying the eternal truth into eternity. They are truth, taking flight.

The voices, you see, give them wings.

my bio pic square newest longer croppedTeresa B Pasquale is a trauma therapist, yoga & contemplative practice teacher, ministry facilitator of the Seekers Faith Community [www.seekersdelray.org], and speaker on issues of emotional and spiritual wounding/healing. You can visit her at www.teresabpasquale.org & check out her virtual video/podcast project “The Liminal Space Cafe” at www.theliminalspacecafe.com; she authored a book on trauma called Mending Broken and is working on a second book project on spiritual wounds titled The Journey of Desert Flowers.

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