I'm A Blessed Little Unicorn!

I'm a rarely seen species: a woman in theology who has no sad stories to tell you about being harassed, roadblocked, or discriminated against by others who thought she was stepping beyond her place. I've spent ten years in formal study of theology, but no one has ever made a snide remark about my gender. I've spent three years in professional ministry and never had anyone oppose my work, my preaching, or my spiritual life because I was a woman-pastor or woman-chaplain or woman-evangelist.

I hear the stories of my female colleagues and I wince. They've been teased, told outright to change their majors, marginalized in meetings, scoffed at, refused entrance into educational programs, even ignored in their own parishes. I admire their perseverance in service in the face of such painful and discouraging opposition. But I can't relate. 

This could be in part because I just haven't observed the discrimination. Perhaps decisions were made about me or sneers were sneered at me that I never knew about, and I went on theologizing and ministering in blissful ignorance.

I also need to acknowledge that my own optimism about people expects them to be friendly and reasonable and helpful, and this probably blinds me to some people's cautiousness or perhaps even hostility to me as a woman in ministry. (Actually, I know this has happened. Months after I left the Ministerial Department of Oregon Conference I realized that this one active lay leader kept asking me to make copies because he thought I was an administrative assistant. I thought he was too old to know how to work the copier!)

Honestly, I'm happy to be ignorant in these ways, not seeing when others have some unfounded gripe against me. 

But some of the other reasons that I think I've received such an unusually warm reception in theology and ministry don't sit as well with me. I have a complicated relationship with them. 

I wonder if I've been embraced by the people in my circles because I'm a safe person who doesn't challenge their paradigm. Perhaps I benefit from the system because I don't threaten its parameters.

In my physical appearance I have the advantage of being just "feminine" enough. I'm petite and sprightly, just about the opposite of someone you might picture trying to usurp authority. I've got some hips on me, but my chest is small and people might call me "cute," but never "sexy." (Sexiness is a terrible attribute to have as a Christian woman. Christians have an awful time with women's sexuality.) Also, I'm white. I'm like Tinker Bell, but more modestly dressed. Not at all threatening. 

In my disposition, I have the advantage of being just "masculine" enough. I err on the side of the logical. I'm confident, not cowering. I'm a problem-solver, not a natural empathizer. I, like many women (even a disproportionate number of women) who make it into academic theology, feel more naturally at home with my many guy friends than my few girl friends. Sometimes it can feel that I'm accepted in my guild as an "exceptional" woman, not like those typical, lesser women. 

So I think about myself and wonder how I feel about these advantages, the tiny ribcage and the emotionally quiet mind and all the others. It seems I wouldn't be where I am today without them. Have they blessed me or betrayed my kind? Should I thank them for giving me an advantage or resent them for supporting the system that gives others disadvantages? 

Maybe there's no finding out the "should." Maybe I need just to accept that they did some dirty work for me.



Sins of Oblivion

I am tempted to oblivion. Not always, not incessantly, not even often, but tempted still. I have wanted to be overwhelmed with the pleasures of some sin so that I might be free from mental puzzles I cannot solve and free from the discomforts that exasperate me.

I splash ankle-deep in these waters from time to time, binge-watching tv or lost in a social media loop on my phone. Many years ago I waded into the waist-high water with underage drinking, lasciviousness, infidelity, and so on. In the midst of this episode I ended up at a small but vile party that included a giant burning cross. I was disturbed by the desecration of a symbol that I knew was sacred, and it deeply impressed upon me that there was a dread impossible to avoid except by extinction

over the Baltic sea

over the Baltic sea

To surrender to the vices of oblivion (or don't all vices lead there?) is really to give in to hopelessness. 

Then as now, the lure to drown myself in some sea of forgetfulness is as strong as my patience is weak. (I prefer the term patience rather than the archaic term longsuffering because I prefer to avoid the truth that patience means suffering.) Impatience is short-suffering, short because it can't hold fast hope. >> 

The waiting is in vain. There's nothing that's worth enduring this. Better to be destroyed by this vicious pleasure than to withstand desire and to enjoy the nourishing fruit of virtue. 

Diving into oblivion––utter forgetfulness––is seen as the coward's end, running away from one's problems and all that. But I think we should consider that it may also be an act of aggression, an attempt to overcome the enemy by overwhelming it and eventually destroying it.  –if the enemy is the mind.  –if the enemy is the conscience. –if the enemy is discomfort, frustration, pain, sense. -if the enemy is the self.

How can one overcome the enemy that is oneself, that is one's own self? It does not seem possible to obliterate the enemy without ending one's mind in oblivion or ending one's existence in death. 


"Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." Rom 8:37

"thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Cor 15:57

"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me." Gal 2:20

"...Christ in you, the hope of glory." Col 1:27

You Find It In Yourself

On the occasion of my thirty-second birthday I am thinking about age, of course, and this poem by John Koethe is the perfect companion for such thoughts. What does it mean to be young or even to feel young? How do we feel age at all?

Enjoy the excerpts below, but take 5 minutes to read the original magnificent piece, too. It is so good that I find it sends me to different paths of wonder and delight each time I read it. I dare you to read it and let it lead you to contemplate the beauty of your life.


A Private Singularity 
by John Koethe

I used to like being young, and I still do,
Because I think I still am. There are physical
Objections to that thought, and yet what
Fascinates me now is how obsessed I was at thirty-five
With feeling older than I was: it seemed so smart
And worldly, so fastidiously knowing to dwell so much
On time — on what it gives, what it destroys, on how it feels.
And now it’s here and doesn’t feel like anything at all [...]

You find it in yourself: the ways that led inexorably from
Home to here are simply stories now, leading nowhere anymore;
The wilderness they led through is the space behind a door
Through which a sentence flows, following a map in the heart.
Along the way the self that you were born with turns into
The self that you created, but they come together at the end,
United in the memory where time began: [...]

It feels like such a miracle, this life: it promises everything,
And even keeps its promise when you’ve grown too old to care.
It seems unremarkable at first, and then as time goes by it
Starts to seem unreal, a figment of the years inside a universe
That flows around them and dissolves them in the end,
But meanwhile lets you linger in a universe of one — 
A village on a summer afternoon, a garden after dark,
A small backyard beneath a boring California sky.
I said I still felt young, and so I am, yet what that means
Eludes me. Maybe it’s the feeling of the presence
Of the past, or of its disappearance, or both of them at once — 
A long estrangement and a private singularity, intact
Within a tinkling bell, an iron nail, a pure, angelic clang — 
The echo of a clear, metallic sound from childhood,
Where time began: “Oh, beautiful sound, strike again!”

New South Wales

New South Wales

waiting on the Lord

To WAIT ON THE LORD is not like waiting for the tide (it just basically has to come to you, doesn't it?), and to WAIT ON THE LORD is not like waiting for your ride to show up (they may never come at all). 

To WAIT ON THE LORD is like waiting for a person --- a wise and loving person who never forgets --- is like waiting on a promise that is not obligated out of gravity but out of everlasting kindness --- is like waiting on a kindness that cannot lie. 

So we will never be put to shame. 

No one whose hope is in you
will ever be put to shame. 

psalm 25:3

And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.  Romans 5:2b-5