On Saturday mornings, my dad gets up earlier than many like to given the opportunity to sleep in to go to a local restaurant to have breakfast with his “group.” It is a group of about 1/2 a dozen men from varying faith traditions, work background, education levels, what have you…and all are brilliant and in touch with the world around them and, inevitably, the theological issues that are raised on this journey of life. They are earthy. They are honest. They love and care for one another. They support one another and give each other the gift of a safe place to share their thoughts on any- and everything. Almost always, they talk about politics and eventually they come to matters of theology and faith. Where do I get one of those?
I went to Sunday School at my new church last Sunday. It was my first time to try a class at this church, the first time in about a year that I have attended Sunday school and the first time since college that I actually attended a class with people close to my age (I think I was still the youngest in the room). So needless to say, I was a little skeptical (as I am about most things concerning the institution), but I need the community and the relationships and I do truly believe that I can learn something from everyone. I gotta admit. It was tough. The class is comprised of couples ranging from late 20’s to mid-30’s, all married, some with a child or two. And we were split up by gender. The class has initiative and wanted to do something a little different, to not stay bound to the curriculum and good for them. I like variety and trying new things. So they have decided for 8 weeks to split up and the men are reading one book while the women read another (both appropriate more for the particular gender). The women…we…are reading Having a Mary Spirit. I forget the author but it’s the same woman who wrote Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. Wow. It’s hard for me to read it. There was a time when I would have eaten that book up in my quest to be holy as God is holy. Lord, change me, make me pure and holy and more like you was my ever urgent, insistent prayer. My prayer now is neither urgent nor insistent. Most days, it is, in fact, nonexistant, as it has been for nearly 3 years since my mom’s sudden and untimely death. Regardless, through the experience of her death and my experience of grief and other experiences from the past nearly 3 years, God has changed me and made me a little more like Godself. Back to the book, though, it carries that same urgent, insistent, “God change me now” tone and I have a hard time with that. It feels very hyper and frenetic to read. As for content, I have a hard time with that as well. Mostly, I have a hard time with the implicit call to throw the baby out with the bathwater. She is calling for us to shed every part of ourselves, for it’s all (or mostly all) bad and sinful and there’s no room for the Holy Spirit to take up residence as much as she (my gender pronoun) should. I see it differently. I think that, if we really are created in the image of God, then something of God already resides within us and we are not 100% “hateful, awful people.” That when all else is stripped away, the essence of who we are, our true self, the self in the image of God, remains. And the Spirit is already present with us in that space for we are spiritual beings anyway.
I struggle to read this book. I struggle even to talk about it because I struggle with being on, and trying to dismount, my self-righteous, educated high horse. My husband says I need to try to build some bridges to people who go about their spirituality differently. And he’s right. And I’m trying. I’m going to go back to that class. I have almost completely caught up with the reading (8 chapters by Sunday) and that only after having gone once. I do want to know what these women are reading and thinking about, even if it doesn’t work for how I experience my faith. We are all different and there is no Right Path to God. I just wish someone would try to build some bridges to my teeny part of the Home for the Exiled Square Pegs.
I think that perhaps if I could have a group of square pegs with whom to interact and spend regular time, if I could be fed there, then I can build bridges with more ease. Any takers?