A Word About That Word

You might wonder why I’d entitle this blog as I did, so let me unpack it a bit for you. “Chronic” is easy – I attest to the notion put forth by the wonderful Kate Bowler that life is a chronic condition. Life in all its messiness, beauty, joy, hardship, grief….life when it’s beautiful, unfair, ridiculous, confusing. All of that. And I’m chronic, too. If I elect to live life fully, it comes with baggage. It’s the chronic nature of that baggage that is my humanity, and even though I may howl at the heavens for things to be nicer or easier or more baggage-free, I wouldn’t trade it.

Someone who knew my husband when he was with his ex-spouse asked him recently if he ever regretted that prior relationship, which ended sadly. He said “No, because without that experience I wouldn’t be with Mary now, and it’s wonderful.” I think he wins the spouse of the year award for that one. Or maybe I won the award and the prize was getting to be married to him. Sometimes it’s the baggage of life being a chronic condition that forms us into the person we are today, beloved by God in all our messiness. So yes, I’m chronic.

I’ll skip over the “crone-ish” part for the moment and save it for last!

What about that “Canon” thing? Episcopalians – I’m an Episcopal Priest – are lovers of the particular jargon of the long traditions of our denomination. A Canon is a church law or rule. It’s derived from the Greek word “kanon” meaning a ruler or measure of some sort, but it’s about the official rules and regulations that govern our church. But sometimes it means something a little bit different, as when it is applied to a person.

For several years I was an assistant to my Bishop with a particular focus on the health and vitality of our congregations and on the ordained leaders who serve them. My title was “Canon to the Ordinary.” Not a very descriptive title, is it? But if we learn that “the Ordinary” is the person who ordains people, namely, the Bishop, and someone serves as a Canon, or rule-bearer, to the Bishop, then it starts to make some sense. My task was to be an assistant to the Bishop by being the rule-bearer.

That sounds a little scary, as if I were some sort of enforcer for the Bishop. But we’re a denomination that leads with the notion that Jesus asks us to be agents of love in the world, it’s a little less being an enforcer and a whole lot more being an encourager.

Many dioceses have Canons, with various titles that show a particular focus in their work. But for me, that idea that one is a Canon, a bearer of the law of love, is paramount. But being a person with baggage (see above) I’m not always good at it. A work in progress, as we all are, and continuing to try to find the path toward truth and love and Jesus.

So now we get to the “crone” thing. You may have an image of what a crone looks like. An old hag with gray hair and wrinkles and raggedy clothing, muttering incantations and spells and such.

But ancient traditions lift up the notion of the crone as a female elder, a bearer of wisdom borne of experience. She knows what death looks like. She knows what birth looks like. She knows rebirth and grief. She’s made her share of mistakes and has learned from them, so she can be a helpful source of support and encouragement for those who don’t want to make the same mistakes, or who are walking through difficult times and could use a companion on the journey.

There was an ad campaign some time ago where the company had a tag line that was something like “we make the mistakes so you don’t have to!” Sounds silly, but that is what I pray I can be: a journeying companion to help you avoid potholes that I’ve already found the hard way, a friend and encourager and truth-teller.

And if you’re carrying baggage – and who among us is not? – consider me someone who can lighten your load, or at least tell you it’s time to put it down.

I expect that each of you have someone like that in your lives, a chronic crone-ish canon of love. It’s a gift to know one. It’s a gift to be one…

Peace and contentment to you today.

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