I grew up in a home that backed onto a street called Commissioners Road. One of my earliest feats as an elementary student was learning how to spell it. I loved how – like the word Mississippi – it was full of lots of double letters.
I didn’t understand what a commissioner actually was until much later, though. And even then, its true meaning was overlaid with shades of authority and law. There were police commissioners, and municipal commissioners, and people who made sure the rules were enforced. The word also had overtones of business in my mind – like the commissions that salespeople earned. Or the military – like the commissions that officers were given.
In church, there was something called the commissioning and benediction (although I thought of it as all one word, “commissioningandbenediction”). This was the final part of the worship service that we had to get through (and in truth, I wanted to rush through) before we were finally released from boring church every Sunday.
To be commissioned, though, is a special thing. It means to be granted certain powers, or the authority to carry out a particular task or duty. In church, the commissioning was where we were given our “marching orders,” so to speak – instructions on how to proceed into the secular world during the coming week.
In ritual, there’s the understanding that you have a job to carry out once the ritual is finished. The job could be sharing your experience, or teaching somebody what you have learned. It could be creating a work of art, or adhering to the guidance you have gained from your ritual experience. But whatever your commission is, you should take it seriously, because you – and only you – have been entrusted with the powers necessary to carry it out.
How have you been commissioned in your life? Do you take that commissioning seriously, or do you try and pretend you never heard it?
Art journal spread Waves and Jessie, December 2012. Wax crayon and children’s bandage on paper.