Church Story: "I hold all these things in my heart" (by Jerusalem Jackson Greer)


by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

Today I am just thrilled to share a really powerful and relatable guest post from my friend and fellow sojourner, Jerusalem Jackson Greer.  

Jerusalem is a writer, speaker, nest-fluffer, urban farm-gal, and author of  A Homemade Year: The Blessings of Cooking, Crafting and Coming TogetherShe is currently serving as the Lay Minister to Children, Youth, and Families at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Conway, Arkansas. Jerusalem lives with her husband and two sons at the crossroads of beauty and mess with an ever-changing rotation of pets, including a hen house full of chickens. As a family, they are attempting to live a slower version of modern life.  She blogs about all of this and more at jerusalemgreer.com 

Enjoy! 

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The other evening I found my 9 year old son Miles rolled up in the blankets on my bed in a very melancholy state. When I asked him what was wrong, he answered “I’m not little anymore.”

And it is true.

He isn’t little anymore.

And it is bittersweet for both of us.

So I did the only thing I knew to do.

I crawled up on the bed with him and laid with my forehead touching his and whispered,  “You know what? You get to keep all the ages you have ever been inside you. They never have to leave. You can keep them as long as you want and visit them in your heart anytime you want.”

I think I said it as much for myself as for him.

I wasn’t sure if I believed it until I saw his eyes.

Until I felt his breath release and the weight of grief fall off as he hugged my neck so tight.

 

The church (as Shauna Niequist so eloquently wrote once) is my sister. She was my playmate, my constant companion, my comforter. 

I was raised in small version of what my husband has dubbed, with no small amount of tongue-in-cheek, “a small evangelical dynasty.” 

Evangelicalism, specifically Southern Baptist evangelicalism, was not only my faith, it was my family.

It was the family business.

It was the language we used to communicate.

It was the lens through which we saw the entire world. 

But then I fell in love with a Pentecostal preacher’s boy. And so I followed him for a bit. To see if I could live in that skin. 

And in the end, even baptized in the Holy Spirit as I was, the answer was no. 

To the boy and that particular expression of faith.

And then I finished my liberal arts education and married a Baptist preacher’s son and together we stepped out of our parent’s worlds and right into the wide, exuberant, hands held-high, praise and worship world of non-denominational faith and small group fellowships.

And it was fresh air.

And it was intense.

And It was magic.

Until it wasn't.

And then I was a mom, and a co-pastor in a Vineyard-turned Emergent expression.

And it was freedom.

And it was grace filled.

And it was a beautiful mess.

And it was very necessary.

Until it wasn’t. 

And during all this time I was following little liturgical breadcrumbs left by those who had gone before - my Presbyterian grandmother, friends who were raised Lutheran, Catholic, and Methodist. 

And then there were the books… The writings of Phyllis Tickle, Kathleen Norris, Barbara Brown Taylor, St. Francis, and Brother Lawrence...

And as I scratched harder at the surface of my assumptions about what the liturgical life meant, I begin to wonder how I could live a liturgical life at home with my kids, celebrating all the lovely, ancient, traditions I was discovering.

Eventually my experiments and discoveries led to me writing a book about my faith journey and how we celebrate the church year in our home.

And when that was all done, when the two years of writing and research and more writing was complete and the book was off the presses, I found that I had developed a craving to be a part of a community that also celebrated these things - These ancient traditions that felt shockingly relevant to my modern life.

And so, rather unexpectedly, I found myself comfortably perched on three legged stool of the Episcopal tradition. 

Now I am a part of an Episcopalian family and diocese where many - including my priest - are converted Baptist.  (This helps my mother sleep better at night.)

And I sleep better at night, because I feel like I have come home.

I feel the things that it seems like new converts feel - something I have always craved as a lifelong believer.

Relief.

Belonging

Acceptance,

Understanding,

Excitement.

Wonder.

Insatiable curiosity.

 

But I believe strongly that all of this is possible because I arrived at this place with all of those other parts of me in tow.

I did not shed their gifts - the gifts of my Gospel preaching Southern Baptist, Evangelical, Holy Ghost, Small Group, Praise and Worship, Coffee Bars and Social Justice years.

I am all of those streams.

They are all inside me.

They are all part of who I am.

They do not erase each other.

They do not negate each other.

They flow in and out of each other, they strengthen each other, and I live out of the best parts of all of them.

As a mother I have learned that my heart can expand to love all those in my care. And so I also believe that our hearts can expand to hold all we need to live as we are created to be.

We can hold more than one thing in the same hand.

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By the way, Jerusalem is just as cool in real life as she is in her writing. I know because I've eaten pie with her. Be sure to check out Jerusalem's blog and book. 

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