I escaped into Arkansas wilderness today, despite the rain, because I needed poetry and a deep breath of the holy (whole) God I have come to know. Tramping over a creek I looked down and saw watery patterns.
Where is Jesus in this? I thought, and saw a pattern of stripes.
Bloody ones on the back of a man that prompted me to remember a verse about Jesus being pierced for my “transgressions”. Then I quickly backtracked mentally as that train of thought began to unravel the healing work I been faithfully cultivating.
Looking for the scars is not doing much for me.
I’m tired of my faith centering around an act of violence.
If redemption stops at violence then this story isn’t any different from the last and, oh, how I need a new story.
19 For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19 NLT)
Tell me, please, that
There was “good” before there was death
There was descent for the sake of ascent* (rather than for the necessity of endless chaos, as my childhood fears–and the childhood fears of many fundamentalist religious leaders, it seems–would propose**)
Maybe you need to hear a story of death
Where you may be lowered
Perhaps your ego needs a jolt & a bit of righteous de-centering will help you find your true center
Today, that is not my story. (I know that our will is made to be broken.)
Today, that isn’t the Gospel I need. (I know that blood is necessary for cleansing–what woman doesn’t?)
My soul won’t come out to play for anything less than a story that offers me the chance to have a “center”, to regain the hiding parts of me.
So tell me the story, instead, of the Essence that got so excited to know & be known that
it belched a ballad with me right in the middle.
Tell me the story of a girl who wasn’t born to suffer;
whose oceanic depth is mysterious on purpose.
Voices are starting to welcome me into this story–words of women who write and speak with a confidence I don’t yet have (Jen Hatmaker, Rachel Held Evans, Opal Tometi, Sarah Bessey, Rosemary Ruether, Maya Angelou, Sojourner Truth);
women who aren’t stopped by the patriarchal language of a tradition they have found Truth in (though very bothered by the problem of patriarchy).
Their vulnerability makes Truth more accessible to me:
“I have my own quiet sorrows, of course, but they are mostly common sorrows; and joy, especially the everyday quiet joy of loving and being deeply loved, has been mine in abundance.” ~Sarah Bessey, Jesus Feminist (140)
Why didn’t anyone tell me that before?
My shocking stories of abuse,
hands of cruelty that still reach from the dream world and shake me awake:
those hands aren’t as strong as they seem.
Snippets of Sarah Bessey’s experiences, honestly conveyed in her book, Jesus Feminist, are one way my heart is hearing a message she never before believed could be true.
Let me see through your eyes, sis.
Her story shuts me up:
Oh, how good it is to be silent,
to hear instead of chaos the deep truths of joy, love, daily grace.
How good it is when women who know their belovedness aren’t silent.
(These are the words of God, and they find success in the lives of the women who have forgotten the belovedness that birthed them. They find success in my life.)
How good it is to entertain the idea that there is an ever-clean shore, and
thousands of arms upholding the daughters who, day after day, watch-wait-hope to see healing break the horizon line.
For me, this is news worth searching the creekbed for. This is Gospel.
Check the drama at the door: I’ve had enough and I will shake the expectation of its return.
This is the other story and it isn’t tumultuous or violent;
it tells me of an unjeopardized, completely accessible wholeness.
The Gospel of Jesus’ fullness: today’s liberation and bread of Life.
And there’s more as her bold words uncover hidden hopes:
“.…women who have been abused rising up in strength to lead us all….” ~Sarah Bessey, Jesus Feminist (149)
Mother Teresa. St. Clare of Assisi. Rigoberta Menchú. Christine Caine. Opal Tometi. Becca Stevens. Deb. Rosario. Jan. Countless others leading in their own ways, big and small. If they matter I do too. My footsteps fall amidst theirs and if they can climb the mountain to wholeness, so can I. Together we can win bigger. For me that victory starts today, it starts at the feet of these women as they stroke my hair and bid me to take heart. I am humbled by their Grace and mothered by their legacies. My gratitude is all I have to give for this life–for this tiny, sacred role I get to play in the story–and I will give it as a thank-you-mark at the sentence-end of each exhausting day.
“For I believed then, as I know now, that we are meant for love.”~Sarah Bessey, Jesus Feminist (142–I’m putting page numbers because I SO want you to read this book–at least look up the quotes. Please?)
This is the Truth, the message of Jesus’ beautiful, coming Kingdom. (I’m retraining my ears to hear its’ soft footstep).
Though the thumbprints of patriarchy still leave smudges on the language Jesus’ people use for a better world,
I give myself to Kingdom.
Because it is so good for us all, and we need it desperately.
An existence of Love, for Love.
The feminist scholars whose teachings I am deliberately choosing to sit under are bringing to memory the candles lit by women in my life. Sparks, small and persistent, that have brought me out of the shadows. Just some examples….
Brianna who dared to love the angry, confused, proud, and fearful child I once was. Who risked forgiveness as seeds of a fresh start.
Jan, gentle & kind, never using her words to jab me or make a point, soft to her core. Present and available without insistence. Carefully respectful of every person she makes contact with. Her tears are her testimony over a dinner of flaky fish and a rainbow of veggies, and the index cards on her fridge make me a little less afraid of the Bible.
Rosario who cries in front of the class semester after semester as Powerpoint slides tell tales of systemic oppression against her own people: female and native, ongoing since humans learned to speak. Who doesn’t harden or bristle when arrogant students expose bigotry during class but faithfully leads her flock through the stories and argues with stagnant faculty members in both English & Spanish.
Heather who wrestles faith as heartily as she struggles with every day challenges of the business world. Who invites and beckons and keeps firm boundaries up while slipping hundreds of dollars into the hands of her hopeful daughters who dare ask for help.
Meghan and Emily, friends who tell me that my healing journey isn’t easy for any of us
but who beg me not to walk any other path;
who I know will be waiting anyway, always–no matter what.
There’s an army here that I haven’t dared to see, but now, as the fog of fear lifts, I can’t help but acknowledge. They’re women. They’re mothers of the Queendom of God. I stand on their shoulders and I’m going to touch Heaven.
Let my life be see-through.
Let my love be genuine.
Let me, at the very least, give it my best.
To honor the women who have gone before
To honor those I have forgiven
To honor the me inside of me (who I repent of mistreating)
To honor the earth beneath our feet we often forget to respect
To offer higher shoulders to the younger sisters
Let grace settle on the forest floor of my heart, with roots pushing deeper and deeper into dirt. A wood of love & hope–never-dying trees–is growing in me as I evolve,
as poetry tunes my ear to hear the new story, the real story of an upside-down reality:
that I was not made to suffer, but for Love.
The dancing moments when my ankles and knees fly past one another
The ecstatic yelps
The deep breathes of cinnamon-y scents in the kitchen on Christmas
The curly locks slipping through the teeth of my lucky hair pick
The intimate jokes robed in laughter
The essays that take days to write
The ideas that still elude language
6 mile hikes in the rain, shoes squelching through muddy ruts
Peaceful conversations on slow mornings
Adventures filled with discovery;
Community and closeness with others I have only yet heard whispers of….
This is the Gospel I need.
This is what persists.
The stone rolled away for this, for me, for us–as a family.
Women still locked within the lies, know this, my sisters, my loves: those lies will lose their hold. God is coming. Her people are rising up. It won’t be long. In the meantime, Immanuel is with you.
There is an alternate story and hope for the next life is not where it stops–that is where it begins. The story isn’t about a man dead on a cross. It’s about life after the stone rolled away. It’s the wonder and awe, not the wounds, that we march towards. Watch as the next life comes closer and becomes more real, more new, more now than you dared to imagine.
Let my hopeful voice join the ensemble of women whose struggles are the struggles of our cosmos,
whose bold examples are North Stars pointing me towards the Jesus no hurt can chase away, whose stories hush my hopelessness.
Mine is the story of a girl born blind,
whose God gave her poetry,
whose poetry gave her eyes.
Just a little bit more free (from those haunting, misused verses about violence that echo childhood voices still stuck to our brains),
just a tad more alive,
just a couple steps deeper in.
The drip of everyday Love and faithfulness are
shaping a new path for humanity, a path each of us is invited to walk.