…Greetings! It has been a long time since I last wrote, but I wanted to tell you all that I’m well – thriving in this next chapter of my life. It’s a beautiful late October day – the sun is shining, and the air is crisp.
late September. I’m thinking about my assignment for my introduction to ministerial studies class. We have been asked to present a “Chapter of our Spiritual Journey” to the 15 other MDivs and our two ministry studies advisors. The question to think about is: why are you here and what do you bring?
The asphalt pounds against my feet, cool despite the shining sun – a sure sign that autumn is upon us. I look out over the lake to my right, extending to the crisply defined horizon, the late afternoon sun casts golden pillars from between the apartment buildings to the west. A pair of sails billows white against the blue water, like a pair of spires, someone’s sanctuary, perhaps, a place to find refuge from the busy-ness of this city that I have already begun to call home. My movement warms me against the cool of the autumn-claimed afternoon, and I cannot help but smile at those I pass, happy to be in the world.
I finish half of my run, really more of a brisk jog, and turn around, the lake now to my left. The water laps quietly at the rocky wall that attempts to enclose it. I consider the questions posited to me earlier today – why am I here and what do I bring? The first question seems more challenging than the second, which may, to a certain extent, be answered by a part of Dean Owens’ sermon in chapel this morning: what do I bring? I bring my own particularity, the unique lens through which I see the world. This lens is informed by my identity, and it has constructive power in-so-far as I can recognize its particularity (for there are parts of my own identity that I have yet to learn, those that I forget about, and those that I would rather not see). However, I think it a useful exercise to share a little bit of my particularity, as I am aware of it, that you each might have a sense of this lens through which I see the world. I am a woman of Anglo descent. Educated. Middle class. Protestant Christian. The daughter of two ministers. A US citizen. I have had the privilege of travel and the opportunity to live in South Africa, Zimbabwe, the United States, India and Nepal. I have never wanted for anything. These identities, among others, affect how I interact with the world and how the world interacts with me.
Yet these identities are not all that contribute to the particularity of my experience. There are also a myriad of people: living, dead and even fictional who have contributed to what I bring with me….
Smile. It’s wonderful to think how each of you is part of this particularity of mine. Each of you has contributed to my being here, and to the questions and stories that I bring with me.
Mid-October: an excerpt from an email:
This afternoon, I had my colloquium class, which is just us first year MDivs. And we’re sharing a chapter of our spiritual journeys – why we’re here and what we bring. Today’s people floored me – I was humbled beyond words by their articulateness, their willingness to share of themselves wholly and deeply and honestly. The stuff that was shared was gutsy, brave and true to who they are. Wow. I’m not even sure what that will mean for me. I guess I get to just keep listening. I was talking with Cynthia (the head of ministerial studies, at whose house we had dinner the Friday you were here) about my own sharing (since I go at the very very end) and she told me not to worry and that my cohort, my peers would pull out of me the story that I need to share.
There are so many stories. I mean, there are stories that are funny, stories that are humbling (about me being humbled by other people), stories that are sad, stories that are joyous and stories that are just plain pathetic. Wry smile. Of course everyone has such a multitude of stories that they can tell. Perhaps I have to talk about people. For so much of who and what I am is based on the people who have been in my life, and I am so profoundly, so acutely aware of this (one reason that I am SO very glad that you’re in my life is because of this influence that the people around me have on me, and I am so blessed by your influence, your presence, your passions and care and reasonableness and honesty and so much more). Yeah, and this is why it’s important for me to choose who I am around. Because I am fed by people and it is thus that I am able to go out and love others. Sometimes I feel like a conduit, that there is so much love people pour upon me that I just can’t help but let it overflow. Smile. And perhaps this is God. The Divine. This pouring in and out. That which is poured in and out. I don’t know. But hearing the two people share today was such a moving opportunity to have shared with us their understanding of the love of what we call God – people finding forgiveness for themselves when they believe they are beyond forgiveness; people accepting themselves when they are often taught that they are unacceptable. And the people who spoke today spoke of these things (forgiveness and acceptance) as God. God in their lives. What a powerful and wonderful thing. If it is made up, it is a wonderful wonderful story with such power for good that I see in these people. That I could feel from them as they spoke.
One of my very formative professors in college wrote me an email when I first got here to Chicago. And I would like to share it with you because of the promise it holds, and the truth of that promise that I have experienced thus far:
“It is great to hear you are launched on this new part of your journey. It sounds really exciting…. I think you are in the right place with the right people at the right time.”
What an adventure this journey is.
much love to each of you.