“I suffered from chronic illness and infertility, which led my spouse and I to adopt our two rambunctious children. We started out as their foster parents when they were only two and three years old.”― Rev. Dr. Elyse Berry
“Mommy, why did God make the world?” my five year-old daughter asked one morning. “What a great question! Do you have any ideas?” “I think God made the world to stay connected,” she stated plainly with a smile on her face. I nearly fell over in awe. I’d also like to note that she said this all while sitting on the toilet—not to mention that my years of theological education felt immediately irrelevant.
God made the world to stay connected. Stay connected.
Mother’s Day is this weekend, which can be a holiday centered on connectedness. It can be a day that honors a profound relationship and way of being in the world. A day that reminds us how our God gives birth to us and the ways we are all called to give birth to God. Yet, this day is also a complicated one for so many of us. It brings up grief, broken relationships and dreams, loneliness, social expectations, unjust policies, and narrow norms around what family and parenting look and feel like. The list goes on and on.
My family is included in this dynamic relationship with Mother’s Day. I suffered from chronic illness and infertility, which led my spouse and I to adopt our two rambunctious children. We started out as their foster parents when they were only two and three years old. They were placed in “the system” because their mother died of a drug overdose and their fathers were never identified. Mother’s Day holds a wide range of feelings for us, to say the least.
And yet, God made the world to stay connected. Stay connected.
Recently, our daughter asked me how her mother died. I did my best to be age-appropriate, trauma-informed, and truthful at the same time. I also had the urge to speak from my day-job with the Council for Health and Human Service Ministries. I wanted to rattle off facts and figures about the inherently racist war on drugs, how so much of what we think we know about addiction is wrong, how the overdose crisis is fundamentally fueled by trauma, economic and social inequality, isolation, and hopelessness—that the war is on the people who use drugs, not the drugs themselves.
Instead, I shared how my job is about being part of a community working for a more just, caring, and compassionate world. I’m part of the UCC’s working group for the Harm Reduction and Overdose Prevention Ministries, and since I’m friends with several of them on social media, I showed my daughter their faces. “This is Erica and Sarah. They have kiddos too. This is Michael and Blyth. They live in Ohio like us. This is Jose. He really loves cats. That one’s name is Batman.” Her face lit up as we connected her story to those who have responded to this crisis, and their own pain, with fierce love.
Stay connected, I hear Spirit whisper to us through this tiny prophet. May we be brave enough, like her, to risk doing so.
- Where do you need more connection in your life right now? What kind? With whom, what, or where? Where do you need less?
- How might the God of Our Origin be creating new life through you?
- What does it mean to you to love fiercely?
The Rev. Dr. Elyse Berry serves as the Associate for Advocacy and Leadership Development for the Council for Health and Human Service Ministries of the United Church of Christ. She holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Fordham University Graduate School of Religion and was a postdoctoral fellow in advanced bioethics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. She has experience in chaplaincy, spiritual direction, leadership formation, and faith-based advocacy and is an ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).