Did You Not Know?

Blessing in the Turning by Jan Richardson

May you know
the slow mystery
in which mourning
becomes a dance, 
turning you toward 
the gladness
that wants to meet you
in your grief.

May comfort
come to enfold you, 
not to take away
all sorrow
but to infuse it
with tenderness,
with rest,
with every grace
it has.

May you give yourself
to the rhythms
of joy,
even when your steps
are stumbling, 
even when you are
most fragile
and faltering.

May you know 
the dancing that comes 
in the dying, 
moving you in time with 
the heart that 
has held you 
even when you 
could not hear 
its beating, 
even when you 
could not bear 
its love.

“You have turned my mourning into dancing.”
–Psalm 30:11

I first became familiar with Jan Richardson in preparing for this year’s Ash Wednesday service. You may remember her poem that we used during the service, Blessing the Dust. One line in particular remains with me, “Did you not know what the Holy One can do with dust?” The question created space for me to (re)claim the promise that God is working in and through each of us. Even when we feel like dust.

I have since discovered that Jan is a United Methodist pastor who has written a rich trove of poetry. Many of the poems are shaped as blessings, like the Blessing in the Turning shared here. This blessing is part of a book of blessings, The Cure for Sorrow, that Jan wrote as she grieved her husband’s unexpected death. She writes that blessings meet us in the place of our deepest loss. They give us a glimpse of God’s wholeness and claim that wholeness here and now. Blessings can be like a thin place, opening our eyes to where heaven meets earth. Even when life is marked by pain.

I share this blessing because we are in the midst of a “turning” ourselves. We are living in an “already but not yet” world. What I mean is that recent days have brought more and more opportunities for us to dance with joy. We’re reuniting with family and friends that we haven’t seen in what feels like decades. We’re planning for life that’s more than a couple of days in the future. We’re re-learning how to lovingly greet one another beyond those awkward waves on FaceTime and Zoom. Even when we carry the grief of this year.

As we begin to stumble to these new rhythms of joy, we remember that God’s heart has been holding us. We see folks looking around and asking, “Where is hope?” As a church family, we have the awesome opportunity to open the welcoming door into God’s shelter, comfort, light, and encircling grace. 

This work with God invites creativity. We might possibly, potentially, just maybe occasionally depart from “the way things used to be”. But we serve a creative God. And the Spirit of God moves in ways that are constantly surprising, a story we’ll live into soon on Pentecost Sunday. So with the leading of our inviting God, let’s create space for everyone, whether they are mourning, dancing, or walking in between.