So I’m here to tell you that the Holy Spirit can smack you upside the head and you will live to tell about it. So we came to the end of Week One, right? And I’m waiting for THE BIG REVEAL, the Week Two prompt. Ever the Girl Scout and top-notch student, of course I had a call narrative ready. My first post had few details about my journey. I mean, ya gotta hold something in reserve, right? Just in case. (How’s that for trusting the process?) Well damn if the thought doesn’t hit me last Sunday night that I’ve been telling my story the same way for years, even to myself. “And how far did that get you?” I said. “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.” I’ve been spinning on the same emotional hamster wheel for years, trying to come to terms with injustice and failure, with everything my soul longed for in the Church but couldn’t have. Yes, more affirmation, opportunities, mentoring, compassion, and support along the way would have made a huge difference. But I have only one life and that one is fleeting. I want to live it fully and authentically. My love and labors may have added more than I know to the unfolding the Kin-dom in spite of the mess or maybe because of it. “So let it all go,” I said to myself. Choose life, not stuck.
So suppose I were to tell my story (first to myself) from the perspective of abundance not deprivation, what was gained, not taken away? If my very real losses, pain and anger are not the whole or even the truest picture, where would I turn my gaze instead? What gave me life, delight, and purpose? The truth is, I no more want to be defined by my losses at the hands of the Church than by widowhood. Why should I give church as institution so much power over my identity, my happiness, and my peace? My soul belongs to the Lord whom I love and follow. It’s time I own that with joy. This time, having re-framed my narrative, I stand amazed at how much I have integrated a personal history steeped in mystery. I can finally name and claim my priestly call without embarrassment, uncertainty, or equivocation. I just need to view “priestly” through a much wider lens. Heck, I would have needed to do that even had I been ordained.
I learned a lot about the nature of surrender while walking with Paul toward the inevitable. Years before, just when my younger self discovered her priestly call, insurmountable barriers constrained their exercise. Were I still seeking work in the Church, I might still be caught in the emotional angst of those opposing forces. Surrender has its place as does struggle and conflict. But from where I stand now, I am ready to embody my priestly call differently. I am neither afraid nor resentful. God is faithful. Jesus will lead me. My urgent concern now is for women searching and struggling to find their place and a voice in the community of faith. The People of God needs them. There are nigglings at the edge of my consciousness about how I might encourage and support them, and this week I’ve already begun to reach out.
For me right now Discern|Dream|Scheme is THE NEXT BIG THING, as they say in the tech world. It’s a big container for all we bring to it. Here I’m being constantly surprised, I’m discovering the continuity of my call, and I’m finding windows into newness. At almost 74, that’s not small potatoes. I write intensely and go to bed exhausted very late. Listening and responding to other people’s stories is broadening my vision, enlarging my capacity to listen, and infusing me with more energy than I’ve felt in years. My sisters in FIR give me much to ponder. The daily in-breaking of the world’s unimaginable pain is yeast in the dough. I’m being called to more conversion and change than I yet have words for. To my astonishment, I welcome it and seem to be able to stand in the dis-ease of it all. That’s confirmation of all the inner work I’ve done and a sign of the authenticity of what we are about together.
In the last two weeks I’ve trashed and edited far more than I’ve posted. That’s a good thing, and it’s not about crafting perfect prose. By no means. It’s more about focus, clearing away chaff, silencing the inner noise. I’m doing my best to get out of my own way, no easy thing. All this input from so many directions is a heady brew. No wonder the disciples at Pentecost were thought to be drunk. And it’s only Week Two!