Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Story of My Ring

Andrew J. Ulasich is not just my best friend, he is my soul friend. And he is my love. And as of this weekend he is now also my fiance´. The ring he used to propose is a small black ring made from a palm shell called tucum. It is simple, it is plain, it is humble, yet it is anything but cheap. No, this unassuming ring is rich with meaning. As storytellers, it is fitting that the ring which binds us should have a story that goes beyond us:
There is a story of bishop, who in a meeting with the leaders of the Tapirapé people, an indigenous Brazilian tribe, was awed by their faith and resilience. He asked for their forgiveness for the treatment of their people by his, and more importantly, for forgiveness for the church’s complicity in the oppression of their people over the centuries.
The bishop took off his gold ring, the symbol of his office, and presented it to the chief, saying “We cannot return all the gold we took, or restore all the lives we destroyed. But we long to try and make things right. Take this ring as a symbol of my desire for what the church will be – no longer taking, but giving.” The Tapirapé chief accepted the ring, and reciprocated by removing his black tucum ring and giving it to the bishop as a symbol of their forgiveness and solidarity.
The ring, made from the fruit of the tucum palm tree is a difficult plant to cultivate due to its long, thin, sharp thorns. The rings, made from the fruit’s hard shell that surrounds the seed, are made by hand – typically taking over an hour per ring. The sawing, cleaning, and polishing are done by family members, creating opportunities for work for those who would not normally have it.
The symbolism of the black ring has changed over the years – in the 1800s the ring was a symbol of marriage for the slaves and natives, who could not afford to buy gold. The ring was also a symbol of friendship, and of resistance to the established order – the freedom fighters.
It is a sign of alliance, of solidarity with the indigenous peoples and with the lives of the people (the least of these). Anyone who wears this ring, normally, is saying they will accept the weight of this struggle, and also its consequences. Will you accept the challenge of the ring? Many, because of this commitment, were faithful until death…
Today, the black ring of tucum has come to symbolize solidarity with the poor – a pledge to defend the Gospel on the path with the poverty-stricken – engagement with the poor and excluded of society – defending the poorest – aligning oneself against the rich and powerful and with the poor, marginalized, and forgotten – those who cast their lot with the poor of the earth – those who long for the freedom of Christ to reach into the lowest depths and most broken places, and are willing to sacrifice their lives for Him and the least of these.
My ring is a symbol of friendship, it is a symbol of marriage, it is a symbol of something more than just two people coming together, but what we want our lives - together - to be about. Though it is a very light ring, I feel the weight of it as it rests against my skin. I feel the weight of the commitment I am making to Andrew, and I feel the weight of the call of the ring to live a life that brings light and hope and voice and peace to the "lowest depths and most broken places."

I am so deeply grateful to have a partner who will journey with me through this world of terrifying beauty and brokenness; a partner whose heart is also attuned to this radical call, whose lot is also cast with the poor and marginalized and forgotten. Because, in the end, that is where Christ dwells and in his off-kilter economy it seems that it is only in losing our lives that we find them...


  1. Interesting! CONGRATULATIONS! :-)

  2. I LOVE this and I love your ring. It is perfect as are God's plans for our lives. I am so excited for you. I know that we haven't kept in contact but I have such warm memories of your heart. Be blessed in this new part of your journey!