Two different weddings. Both braiding traditions into a new wholeness.
I am in a position of privilege this summer. Two couples asked me to coordinate their wedding ceremonies. And so over the past few months I have held space for intimate conversations with engaged and loving people. I have listened to hopes and have promoted their questions.
In some ways these couples could not be more different from each other. One couple – a man and woman expecting a child, he mid-forties and previously married several times, she mid-thirties never married – navigates how their new family might find rooting in Islam. For him, an earlier commitment to this ancient braid has been restored. Ramadan fasting and salat (prayer) have become pillars of his life. And while the bride holds tenuous Christian roots, she is open to how their new family’s spiritual life may unfold. The second couple is lesbian. Women in their twenties, fiercely in love with each other and with Jesus, made space in their wedding ceremony to wash each other’s feet. In a rural setting among a bunch of tattooed friends and loving family, they reenacted this beautiful ritual from 1st century Christianity. These women began their future together by drawing strength from an ancient root. And, in so doing, they reenact covenant in the midst of a broken world.
I say that I am position of privilege this summer because I have been at the center of people’s lives, and in their search for meaning and purpose. I am allowed to hear stories of beauty, humor, pain and regret and to companion persons as they risk their futures (for all of life is a risk). All the while, I am given the gift of witnessing the role that religious tradition is playing in their unfolding commitments.
Our 21st century American landscape is rife with the “spiritual but not religious,” the “nones,” the spiritual refugees from religious institutions. At the same time many people I know are trying to root in something bigger than the fleeting winds of fear and anxiety that waft around. This year, 2017, might take the prize for the proverbial upset apple cart. All over our world. Democracy is on trial. Political parties are unmoored. Basic human niceties stand on the chopping block as snarky tweets and Facebook wars grab our attention-deficit gaze every few seconds.
But then I come back to these two pairs of newly weds. During their moments of sacred ritual this summer, they have been nonplussed by the upheaval all around them. By claiming a strand of an ancient path, all four people have found resources to guide their present commitments. As I celebrate the Braided Way, I sometimes feel dizzy with my own attraction to meditation, prayer, scripture, the medicine wheel, music, prayer beads, body work. I realize that spirituality (as is true with life in general) is fluid with seasons for many things. But in the midst of swirling chaos, these newly weds, who claim a simple strand of faith tradition, for a simple moment, help me stop and sit for a moment.
Jennifer Olin-Hitt is living in Ohio and spends her days as a Mental Health Therapist in the field of family therapy. She talks with teenagers and children about important things like anger, hope, and fears. In addition to her work with teens, Jen is a Spiritual Director and has been a public speaker in many venues. Jen parents a couple of young people who are in various stages of launching. She is married to Michael. She gardens vegetables and weeds. And every now and then Jen finds time to walk.