Chesed, love. Yesod, foundation. Chesed she’b’yesod, love that’s the foundation!
We all know love is the foundation. Children need it to thrive. To feel secure as they explore and learn. So they don’t see the world as a threat. And thus, defensively, turn on everyone they meet.
Adults need love too. Because, at any age, neglect and abuse are devastating.
And there are so many ways things could go wrong. I’m doing some research right now for a paper on trauma-informed teaching. I think graduate theological education can be healing. But we need to know what we’re doing.
So I read about inter-generational trauma. When harm is done to a community, its support systems are damaged. So individual healing is hard. And victims lash out at the next generation.
I read about moral injury, where people, caught up in a system, harm others. And then don’t know how to live with what they did. And can’t easily find guidance on how to atone.
And I read about spiritual abuse, too. Where someone turns to a trusted spiritual teacher for advice and support. But instead gets rejected and blamed. Sometimes even manipulated or exploited.
In my life, I have tried so hard not to do any of these things. Surely, though, I’ve made some mistakes. Passed on family trauma. Identified with an abusive group. Misunderstood my pastoral role.
But family systems and social networks draw me in. Some of these things are so big, I can’t even see them.
Instead, I only worry about little fails. Like the time my very young son didn’t get what he wanted. So he stomped and yelled. And I said “Don’t be angry!” Then I thought better of it and said, “It’s okay to feel angry but please stop yelling.” Twenty years later, I still wonder: did I crush his ability to feel? (Spoiler alert: no.)
Or the time my very young daughter and I walked past a hornet’s nest. “Let’s run!” I said, and grabbed her hand. But then a hornet zoomed our way. I got distracted and dropped her hand. “Come on!” I said, “Follow me!” And then, ashamed, I took her hand again. To this day, I still wonder: did I teach her to feel unsafe in the world? (Guess what? No.)
So you see, I want to love fully. I have high standards. But I can only see what I know how to see. Thus, I can only name my small mistakes.
But I’m learning. And maybe as I learn, I’ll strengthen the foundation of the world.
Today is day 36 of the Omer, i.e., five weeks and one day.
New to counting the Omer? Here’s a primer.