Saturday night the three came to a full blown head-on collision right smack dab in my face!
First, what? I'm really a priest? Who saw that coming? I am so far from the textbook ideal of a priest I'm not even in the library. (Which brings up a whole other conversation about who gets to define the ideal priest...) I'm loud. I am sometimes sarcastic and sometimes have questionable language (language is my star word for the year so hopefully that will improve). I refuse to wear all black. I wear either outrageous over the top high heeled shoes or go barefoot. It is a close call to figure out whether I'd rather talk sports or theology--I prefer to mix the two. I'm often slightly irreverant. I laugh at inappropriate jokes like a middle school boy. I have a very small filter. (You should definitely now be worried about what I actually do filter since you were probably already thinking I have no filter.) And the list goes on.....
Second, I judge/rank holiness or at least my holiness, and I can assuredly say according to how I judge, I am not even on the measuring stick. When I think about holiness I think about quiet people, reverent people, people who can quote scripture in any and all circumstances. I think about people who bring a quiet, peaceful, calm to a room. I imagine people who talk in soft, silky. soothing voices (not porn star silky voices, get your mind out of the gutter). And I am none of those things (not even the porn star)--see above.
And third, I can be cynical about how people hear God speaking to them and through others. It's not that I don't hear and experience God. I do. It's actually how I felt God's call--finding the holy in the ordinary. But those times when I hear people say, "God wants me to tell you this." I'll admit it, I've been known to scoff. Years ago I was in a non denominational bible study for young mothers (think infants and toddlers). The room was always packed. Every week at the end the leader would say, "I hear God telling me there is someone in the room who needs special prayer because she is overwhelmed. Make yourself known and we will lay our hands on you and pray." Every week someone raised her hand and said, "Me." I wanted to be like others who teared up at how God was letting the leader know this about someone, but all I could think was, "No shit, (remember the language thing) we're all overwhelmed because we have all these freaking little kids and we have no idea what we're doing! It doesn't take God or even a semi genius to figure that out!!!!"
This past Saturday, three women decided to destroy my trinity--not the Trinitarian one--the one bouncing around in my mind.
First, I read Sarah Bessey's Miracles and Other Reasonable Things, and she wrote "...a word of knowledge--was a "supernatural revelation of information pertaining to a person of an event, given for a specific purpose, usually having to do with an immediate need." It's one part prophetic, one part discernment, all Spirit-led." She wrote about how it can and is misused and sometimes in very hurtful ways, but she also wrote about several times she and her family had personally experienced it. I've got to admit I was still skeptical, but I, on Saturday morning, decided to at least open my mind to the possibility it could be real. I very much respect Sarah Bessey and believe her. (And I secretly--I guess not so secretly anymore hope to meet her one day and have a chat.)
Second, this whole holiness thing. In her book Bessey referred to another book, Shalom Sistas: Living Wholeheartedly in a Brokenhearted World by Osheta Moore. I circled the book thinking maybe I'd read it at some point. It sounded intriguing, but it also sounded like something I couldn't do. I do know shalom means peace--and remember what my definition of peace is--calm and quiet. The way Bessey described Moore's book made me begin to wonder if there was a different way to think about shalom.
Here's where that whole not much of a filter thing comes in....
We were driving home from Virginia after watching Caroline's game (where I did keep keep from saying any four letter words I can proudly report). I was reading another book by Bessey, but then it started getting dark and my wonderful, only he drives husband also has this thing about me using flashlights or turning on the car light to read in the dark. But I wanted to keep reading. What I had been reading was making me feel alive and inspired and energized. So I did what any neurotic, can't wait until tomorrow and certainly don't want to just sit in the car person does--I bought Moore's book on kindle and downloaded it to my phone! Yes, I admit it--only because it was dark.
You know what?!?!?! Bessey was RIGHT! (I told you she writes truth). Moore did write, "Shalom is what happens when the love of God meets our most tender places." which made me a little nervous because I think of tender kind of like that whole peace thing--quiet and calm. But she writes MORE!!! She writes about how shalom is "the breadth, depth, climate and smell of the kingdom of God." and I know in God's kingdom we are all beloved even those of us who are loud and obnoxious. She also writes about shalom/peace as being fierce and active and alive. I was starting to really get into this book, but then I was interrupted by my need to check social media. (Did I mention I am also easily distracted as well as a social media over posting groupie?)
I jumped over to twitter and one of my favorites was tweeting up a storm! Apparently while I was driving home in the pouring rain reading theology like a mad woman, Laurie Brock was watching a 70's movie about Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. (Going to just admit this right now, it does my heart good to know that a woman I consider exceptionally holy and an amazing writer and priest watches the kind of thing I would....) AND SHE COMPARED THEM TO CLERGY!!! No
seriously, she did!!!!
Suddenly it was like these three amazing women were speaking straight to me--giving me a word of knowledge. (Maybe now is the time to also admit I am secretly over the top jealous of them because I want to be a published author and so sometimes I don't want to like their books--but I always do.) But back to this moment....
I truly believed and believe God was at work on me right there crossing the state line from West Virginia to Kentucky in the pouring rain. I heard, "God needs and wants and loves and desires priests just like you." Y'all I cannot even explain how light and giddy I suddenly felt. It's not that people haven't said that to me, but I didn't feel it deep down into the bottom of my heart.
Monday morning as I was running, I was still feeling that joy. I kept going over and over what had happened in my mind, and I was brand new falling in love giddy. I also know (because I'm also middle aged) that those giddy feelings don't remain constant, and that sneaky self doubt creature finds ways to wheedle himself into life, so I knew I needed something to remind me. I knew just what to do. I slowed down and texted my exceptionally talented niece and told her I needed a picture asap of a clergy woman wearing white majorette boots and holding pompoms! She's really used to me being crazy...but then TWO MORE THINGS HAPPENED!!
When I opened my phone to text her the last text she had sent me told me I had inspired her! And
Twenty four hours later, I have the picture. I put it up in my office at the Dioceses and I'll put it up in my office at St. Thomas. I taped it to my computer, and I'll put a copy in my prayer book and another in my bible. I'll probably even stick one in my wallet. They'll remind me not only that God needs me as I am, but everyone else.
They'll remind me to love myself, accept myself, and then I can more fully love others--I can more fully live into shalom--the loud kind of course!
You know what's really cool? It happened because three authors challenged three of my deepest darkest doubts--you get it three? Like the Trinity--like community and unity. The community of authors spoke to me!!! The community of authors shared a word of knowledge with me!!! Yep, God is speaking....
Now y'all go read these books; the ones I listed and EVERYTHING by these authors!!! They're not just for or even mainly for clergy. They're for EVERYONE!!! (yes, I'm screaming--in my giddy newly in love way)
Osheta Moore, Shalom Sistas: Living Wholeheartedly in a Brokenhearted World (Harrisonburg, VA: Herald Press, 2017), 31.
Sarah Bessey, Miracles and Other Reasonable Things (New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2019), 98.