Two main threads surface upon reflection of my “why.” First is the social justice “why,” second is the wider call “why.”
When I was engaged as a leader in a faith-based community organizing group, I had many occasions to ask others about their why–Why do you care about issue X?–and to reflect on my own. While I care about so many justice issues, deep work in weeklong training surfaced a key experience from my childhood regarding race that still evoked in me a visceral reaction. I was a working class kid from a poor outer suburb attending a largely white Catholic school in the city limits, a city in which protests and rioting over forced bussing in public schools was happening (in the 70s). One of my best friends, who happened to be one of two black students in my grade, and I chased a wayward soccer ball toward the street where a passing stranger called my friend the n word. I had noticed differences between our situations prior to this, she in her inner city all black neighborhood and me in my working class white one. This experience, seeing a stranger’s look of disgust and profanity bring my friend to tears, was new to me and sparked the beginning of many conversations, questions, outrage, and actions. A passion for activism was born.
I care deeply about so many injustices and have come to understand that it all flows from my deep belief in the dignity of all human persons, created in the image and likeness of God. Peeling back the layers, this is my why.
The second thread is my wider call to ministry. I have left the church at various times, pulled back from ministry or participation or attendance when I have needed to heal personal wounds. This woundedness is wrapped up in my call story and difficult to share. I felt the stirrings of a call to the priesthood at about age 10 with many confirmations of that call over the years.
Most recently I experienced the call again during a time of personal distance from the institutional church. My very elderly aunt died early in quarantine and I was asked by my cousins to help with some kind of memorial (MDiv training and Zoom experience to the rescue!). I guided them–two devout Christians, an atheist, and an agnostic–through a planning process via Zoom and organized an online celebration of life service. It was more Spirit-filled, more beautiful, more healing than any of us could have imagined. I was sick in quarantine myself the whole week but the Spirit carried me through. The response to the service was overwhelming, and while I was preaching and leading prayers I could just feel the Spirit moving powerfully. Those of you who have felt, deep in your soul, the stirring of the Spirit, the Spirit speaking through you, will know what I mean.
It called me back to presiding and preaching and accompanying. This “why” is the Spirit calling me–calling me to serve, calling me to BE who I am, calling me to use my gifts for the good of others. It requires being open to the Spirit. This is my why. But I am tired of “creatively” trying to figure out how. I am weary.