“And you continue, so bullheaded! Calluses on your hearts, flaps on your ears! Deliberately ignoring the Holy Spirit, you’re just like your ancestors.” – Acts 7:51 (MSG)
Maneuvering the monkey bars on the playground as a child is one of my most amazing athletic feats to date. There’s no way to fully describe how I felt when I could finally jump high enough to reach the bars from the ground without assistance. Or when I successfully moved from one bar to the next, making my way across the entire distance in one fell swoop and eventually learning daring tricks. American Ninja Warrior? Pssh. I was unstoppable!
The prolonged pressure from hanging on the bars and frequent friction from swinging across them created protective layers over the tender parts of my hand where my palms end and before my fingers begin. The more I played on the bars, the harder the calluses became. Like many children before me, my hardened skin became a badge of honor that I wore proudly. Those calluses remained until middle school when the playground grew up and no longer had monkey bars. Slowly, my palm skin softened with time to rest and heal.
Beyond the playground, we face exponentially more pressures to achieve success and more frictions that have us bullheadedly protecting our hearts. Calluses form, hardening this life-sustaining muscle that requires flexibility to function. Indeed, we must disrupt our inherited need to persist without rest so the internal and external healing we need can begin. Our lives depend on it.
Palliate the pressures that distort our suffering as badges of honor. Free us from the frictions that distance us from you and each other. Soften our hearts, protective God, so that we might deliberately recognize your presence in and all around us. Amen.
The Rev. Phiwa Langeni is the Ambassador for Innovation & Engagement of the United Church of Christ. They are also the Founder of Salus Center, the only LGBTQ resource and community center in Lansing, MI.