In my journey to receive my PhD, I have often found myself deep in thought. What is my theology? How have I learned, and how much have the people around me influenced my beliefs? Recently, I had a youth reach out to me and ask me, ” Who is Jesus to you?” The theologian in me began my answer, and quietly the youth said to me, ” I don’t understand.” I stopped, and realized that if I had gone to any of my elders with this question growing up, they would share their wisdom by storytelling. Sharing their experiences, to help me relate and understand. If I want people to understand my theology, it is important to speak and share through the my authentic experience.
So I regrouped and this is what I said. My mother means many things to me. She is my mother, my friend, my counselor, my teacher, my kid sitter for my son, a comedian and so much more. Just as my mother means many things for me, so does Jesus. For me, Jesus is the son of God who was sent to bring together creation and restore the relationship of love and trust that God intended to exist between God and creation. Jesus to me is God’s action of the word. Jesus is love in action, the living, breathing love towards all creation. Jesus to me, is someone who never turns away, who gives second chances. Jesus to me, is my definition of a healer, he healed through his teaching, through baptism, through creating other healers to go out and create more healers. Jesus to me, is the ultimate peacemaker, leader of social justice. Where there is turmoil or fear, Jesus shared a message of peace through his words and actions, always bringing peace. Jesus to me, is the fulfillment of the embodiment of God’s word in the flesh, creating a kingdom of peace, love and respect.
Just as Jesus taught others, I was taught in the same way. A living example that was played out by my loved ones around me through their actions and words. Each beloved person around me embodied Jesus. I may not have fully understood that when it was happening, but I see it now. My Unci (Grandmother) Alice, was a beautiful soul. Born on the Cheyenne River Agency (Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe) To me she was the embodiment of Jesus as a healer and love in action. For a time I lived with my Gram. In life, we have experiences that shape us, that help mold who we are. Each morning, I would come upstairs to find my Gram sitting on the couch in front of a large picture window. Sun shining through her curled white hair, as she held her bible in her hand, stopping to gaze out at the beauty of God’s creation. Always, she would turn, smile at me and pat the couch. This was our time. Gram had been a teacher on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, but her love for teaching never went away. She would sit, and with her gentle voice she would begin to talk. Each day it was a different story. Each time, I would carefully study her beautiful, peaceful face. The wrinkles around her eyes, how the lines would show on her cheeks when she smiled. When she spoke, it was often soft, however when she began to speak about something that she felt deeply about, her tone would turn slightly and rise in sound. Her voice was healing for me, never judging, always guiding, and always for me, what love should sound like. It was easy to be lost in the sound of her voice as she told her stories that she intended for me to think about. They were stories about relationships, about her faith and beliefs, stories how she lived and saw the world around her. We talked about God, about our Native traditions, about what I believe. Never judging how I saw the world, how I understood my relationship to God, but always guiding me to find my path with respect and loving wisdom.
Her death was one of the most difficult moments in my life, but yet, the celebration of her life brought some of the funniest moments during a time I thought I could not smile. Did she get to meet my son, no, but I have carried on her stories, her wisdom, so that my son would know her. There are times, when I am lost in thought, or when I am praying, that I hear her voice. My journey of self-discovery, this deep and meaningful spiritual journey I have been on, has been guided by her wisdom, by the many memories we created together. Those moments when I would ask a question and she would sit and teach me through her stories, never left. They were kept safe deep down in my soul, just waiting to guide me. My Gram, my healer, was how I now understand Jesus the healer. A living testimony of Colossians 3:15 “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”