I’ve spent a lot of the past week grieving, and it has surprised me. I didn’t expect this. After six months of supporting and encouraging our Venezuelan friend through her time in detention, she’s now free, and gone to live with family in the southeastern US. As a result, there’s a big hole in our Saturday schedule, and in my heart. I’d become accustomed to visits with her. I looked forward to them, despite the grim circumstances, because of the joy we brought to her face by our presence. Our relationship helped to sustain her during her detention, and it brought us many gifts as well.
Now she has moved on, and we will too—and it’s important to acknowledge the grief when relationships change.
Today is Trinity Sunday. Today, Henry and I celebrate our liturgical anniversary: We were married on Trinity Sunday, 25 years ago. The actual date was a few weeks ago, and we celebrated that, too. Today I’m celebrating by preaching a sermon, about Trinity Sunday and Father’s Day, at the Desert House of Prayer, a retreat center here in Tucson. For the content, I’ve expanded upon a Trinity sermon I preached back in 2015, but the focus remains the same: relationship.
One of the things I’ll talk about today is how God has called Henry into the role of father over the course of his life. He’s a biological father, a priestly father, and was a spiritual stepfather to our friend during her time at Eloy. Over the years, those roles have also changed. His children have grown and now have children of their own. He has “fathered” countless people for a few hours, days, or months, through various incarnations of his priestly ministry over the years.
Each of our relationships teaches us, forms us, and helps us understand our relationship with God. Richard Rohr writes about the Trinity as a divine dance. Our own lives are a divine dance of relationship, with those around us and with the God who sustains us. We are also in relationship with the earth beneath our feet and the web of interconnected and interdependent life all around us.
It is this interconnectedness that has deepened my grief. Eloy Detention Center is so overcrowded that cots are being set up in the hallways. There is a flood of refugees coming to America in search of a safer life, and we’re not equipped to handle the influx. Yet, if these people stay home, they are likely to be killed, or starve, or be conscripted into gangs and cartels. I literally cannot imagine such a life—and yet I’ve been given a window into it through the testimony of our friend at her asylum hearing.
That was a challenging two hours. All we could do, sitting in the back of the courtroom, was to silently bear witness, silently hold all that she shared, while knowing that there were literally thousands of other such stories being held in the hearts and minds of the other detainees in Eloy—and there are many more places like Eloy, all along our southern border.
Each of these people are also children of God. Each of them is also in relationship—with the Trinity, with family, with those who helped them along the way and those who turned their backs. I believe we are called by God—by the very nature of God—to be in relationship. But it must be a joint effort.
What part are you called to take in the divine dance of relationship?