Rising from the ashes

Fascinating creatures, phoenixes. They can carry immensely heavy loads.

Their tears have healing powers.

—Professor Albus Dumbledore

One of my favorite symbols from the Harry Potter series is the mythical bird the Phoenix.  When the bird’s body grows old, it bursts into flames and is reborn from the ashes as a newborn chick.  Its tears are antidotes to poison, and can bring a dying person back to life.  As I read the series aloud to my kids, I’m often reminded that even when life’s circumstances are grave and murky, hope and goodness are often born directly from hardship.

Far from a philosophical dilemma, this symbolism plays out vividly in my daily life as I grapple with how to forgive the racism my husband and I have endured as an interracial couple, having spent a significant part of our marriage living in a place where it felt like KKK affiliation was more acceptable than interracial couples.  It’s felt a crushing weight at times, and I still quiver inside when remembering certain feelings, interactions, or situations.   Sometimes I cannot bear to look back it feels so raw.

So I’ve been asking questions of people on this road with me.  How do you forgive? How do you heal? How do you keep going?

  • They say time will heal.  They are right – it does.
  • They also say vulnerability and honesty are a good place to start.  This makes my knees knock a little, but I believe them, so I speak, shaky voice and all.
  • They say it’s ok to step back for awhile, that this work of reconciliation can be exhausting.  Amen-hallelujah-yippi-dee-doo-dah to that.
  • And finally, they remind me what Jesus says, lives out for us, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  Even if they do know (and surely some of them do), forgiveness still seems a better way than hate, though forgiveness certainly takes more effort than hate does.

Every so often, I feel a slight awakening, a growing sense that a phoenix might be shedding a few tears just for the dying part of my soul. The darkness of the past doesn’t change, but the light of the present is growing brighter.

Some days I pause with Susan Ruach’s words, reflecting on what it means to learn a new way:

To struggle used to be

to grab with both hands

and shake.

and twist.

and turn.

and push.

and shove and not give in.

But wrest an answer from it all

As Jacob did a blessing.


But there is another way

To struggle with an issue, a question –

Simply to jump


into the abyss

and find ourselves




being led

slowly and gently

but surely

to the answers God has for us –


to watch the answers unfold

before our eyes and still

to be a part of the unfolding


But, oh! The trust

Necessary for this new way!

Not to be always reaching out

For the old hand-holds.

Being led.  Being a part of the unfolding.

These steps are both my lifelong story and a brand new journey born out of ashes.


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