you are Good, you are Beloved (erin jean warde)
That’s the profound love of God: ... We all have ways we can grow in our flourishing, crops we might wish to tend to rather than ignore, but your goodness and and belovedness are never in question.
you are Good, you are Beloved
If we use a plant respectfully, it will flourish. If we ignore it, it will go away. This is a theory generated from millennia of observations of plant response to harvest, subject to peer review by generations of practitioners, from basket makers to herbalists.
I was first diagnosed with ADHD 2 years ago, at the age of 34. I still remember the different emotions that came in waves. First: relief. I felt like maybe, just maybe, having a better knowledge about my mind could bring me into deeper healing for my mind. And I was right.
But then: shame. I was surprised by this, as a fierce advocate for mental health. Why did an ADHD diagnosis cause me shame? I reflected, learning that the shame stemmed from the idea of years lost and regret and doing better. The shame voice was pointed:
If you’d known sooner, you could have done better in college.
If you’d known sooner, you could have done better in seminary.
If you’d known sooner, you could have been a better parish priest.
If you’d known sooner, you could have started your book writing career ages ago.
I felt a sense of failure, but specifically in the sense of time wasted, of regretting how many years I didn’t know, of feeling like I should have done better. I felt like I should be doing more with my life, in order for me to be worthy.
I have done a lot of work to reckon with that shame, but the shame voice hasn’t abandoned me entirely. In response, I have had to do a ton of internal work around the idea of my flourishing, and accepting what is about my current life. Sobriety was — and continues to be, every day — a choice made out of a desire to flourish, and I am grateful for what is, regarding my accomplishments.
But, focusing on flourishing — even as it can be such a good focus point for my life — can sic shame voices on me like the ones I heard after my ADHD diagnosis, because those voices want to trick me into thinking flourishing and hustling are the same thing. And they are, under no circumstances, the same thing.
You know what I realized about the shame voices in this case? They sound an awful lot like toxic marketing that tries to make me dislike who I am, telling me I could be more successful/thin/rich/or worse, all the while whittling me down to hating myself, so they can suggest a product to help me out of the hole they dug for me.
I think at first, I felt like I had ignored the harvest of my life, participating in my own dying. And in some ways, I did. I will be the first person to tell you that in the hardest years of drinking, I was ignoring the bounty laid out for me, the banquet feast, the ever present blessing of breath. And I have confessed that and practiced amendment of life, through sobriety.
And — very important — ADHD and drinking are not the same thing. But isn’t it interesting how hard shame will work to get it twisted? The reality of drinking is I quit, and as my mind awakened in sobriety, I was better able to know her contours. The clarity of sobriety, the awakening to my body through it, allowed me to have enough care for myself to seek out a diagnosis that is helping me build on the foundation of new life offered to me by the grace of sobriety.
And I won’t let shame win at getting ADHD and drinking twisted. I won’t let shame convince me I should take on blame for the way my brain was made, as if it wasn’t made beautifully by God. Who I am is not cause for repentance; I have to learn how to parse the two, how to love myself the way I believe God loves me.
And that’s the profound love of God: Who you are is Good; you are called Beloved. We all have ways we can grow in our flourishing, crops we might wish to tend to rather than ignore, but your goodness and belovedness are never in question.
The surprise was that the failing plots were not the harvested ones, as predicted, but the unharvested controls. The sweetgrass that had not been picked or disturbed in any way was choked with dead stems while the harvested plots were thriving. Even though half of all stems had been harvested each year, they quickly grew back, completely replacing everything that had been gathered, in fact producing more shoots than were present before harvest. Picking sweetgrass seemed to actually stimulate growth.
As I reflected on this reading more and more, I realized the ADHD is not the neglect, not the fault, not worthy of the shame — and actually, finding support for myself as I navigate it allows me to reap the harvest. The once unharvested crops of my life and soul now flourish, because of how I now care for myself in mind, through both sobriety and choosing to find the best tools for me right now in my life, in alignment with how I was created by God.
Humans participate in a symbiosis in which sweetgrass provides its fragrant blades to the people and people, by harvesting, create the conditions for sweetgrass to flourish.
Yes, there is something about my life’s flourishing that needs hands on care, like fingers in earth, pulling weeds to make way for the sprouting I long for, especially after years of not being able to care for myself, because of factors both in and outside of my control.
In short: I’m learning about the gray center of being alive, more and more as the days pass. The gray center of owning my place in things, the sins I need to confess, the amends I need to make, while simultaneously not letting shame get it twisted.
In some ways, I have to be in symbiosis with myself, acknowledging the inevitability of my own give and take, how ownership and shame resilience are not forces in opposition. And I must be in symbiosis with community to understand the fullness of life’s flourishing alongside the challenges of growth — community with the earth, community with others, community with the Spirit who holds my gives and takes in harmony, in the mystical way God can hold the complicated whole of ourselves tenderly inside a harmony we can’t imagine or create.
… the maples had been giving all year long. Their contribution of limb wood kept my old neighbor Mr. Keller’s house warm all winter when he couldn’t pay the oil bill. The volunteer fire department and the ambulance squad as well rely on maple contributions to their monthly pancake breakfast, to raise funds for a new engine. The trees make a real dent in the energy bill for the whole with their shade, and, thanks to big canopies of maples, nobody I know ever pays a bill for air conditioning. They donate shade to the Memorial Day parade every year without even being asked. If it weren’t for the maples’ ability to break the wind, the highway department would have to plow snowdrifts off the road twice as often.
There is such a profound understanding of gift in Kimmerer’s work, and if I close this book with no other wisdom (which is impossible—this book is all wisdom), I think it might be this: The earth’s order is to help and be helped; this is your order, too. Helping and being helped is by design, from the Spirit, born out of goodness, and meant for your flourishing.
Yes, I’ve come to a sense of peace around both not being ashamed of my ADHD, and taking ownership of the crops I left unattended when drinking. But it takes work to speak back to the shame. The response I have to keep in my back pocket is this:
Wow, you finished college, you finished seminary, you served as a parish priest, and you have been writing since you were 10 years old — and for the first 34 years of your life, you didn’t have some of the tools that could have supported your mind. But still, you did it. Against all odds, you have done tremendous things, and that is not something to be ashamed of — that is something to be proud of.
And no matter what you accomplish, remember this: At the first inkling of your becoming, God said you are Good. God doesn’t know you by your degrees, your books, your churches, or your honors — God knows you as Beloved, now and forevermore.
Because I’m trying to live a life of flourishing, of sowing the seeds that may or may not flower, of reciprocity, of owning my part in things, of caring for my body, all in the hope that I might be delivered into the mystery and gift of the Spirit who leads us into all the many ways the Spirit wills to be found. And when I feel that shame, and I respond to it by saying: God said I am Good. God knows me as Beloved.
May you know you are Good. May you know you are Beloved.
With love and care,
I hope you are enjoying Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer.
I keep ruining the reading schedule, so I am just going to list our next chunk of reading, lol.
I’ll be back next week with a reflection on pages 202-240.
Looking for a speaker or retreat leader?
Want me to speak (& preach, if that’s your thing!) on Sober Spirituality in the Spring?
Doing a program on care for the mind, body, and soul?
If so, I would love to come spend time with your community!
Join me for an event partnering with Stevenson School for Ministry in the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania! (I seem to have an ongoing partnership with PA and I love it!)
This is event is on Zoom, so anyone can come. I hope I see you March 29, from 7:00-8:30EST.
Please note: If the cost would prevent you from participating, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for a discount code.
About this offering: This workshop will explore the importance of hospitality in Christianity, name the current challenge our culture faces with alcohol, and talk through fun and thoughtful ways churches can grow in showing compassion toward those who don't drink. Churches growing in hospitality to sober people serves not just to change our churches for the better, but to grow them, as churches can become safe places for sober visitors and their friends.
This workshop will meet for 90-minutes on Zoom. The Rev. Warde will share her experience and offer resources. The content presetnation will be recorded. A brief question time will also be included at the end and will not be recorded for distribution.
The cost of this workshop offsets the operating costs of the Stevenson School for Ministry. SSFM is dedicated to the lifelong learning and discernment processes of all Episcopalians in the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania and beyond.
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You had me at the title. Can’t be reminded enough of our goodness and God’s love for us.