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Recently I had a look at the stats page of this blog and realised I had missed, if I had thought to consider it, a 5 year milestone of writing.  So and so number of posts, so and so number of visitors to the page over those 5 years – what do those numbers mean?  When I created this page in Feb 2011, it was September before I posted anything to it.  I felt like I had to know the answers to all these questions: who are your audience? why are you writing?

I suppose I still don’t really know the answers to those questions but I suppose I care less that I do not know.  I will confess I have been known to answer facetiously “I write because I get something out of it, if you get something out of it – it’s Gods fault”. Do what you want with that.

I think all I ever hold of anything are fragments.  One of the reasons I think I’ve found it hard to classify “what I’m writing” or “who for”, is that what I post here is so mixed – things I write, things other people write, stories, poems, quotes, photos… life.  These aren’t considered think pieces or articles, I don’t have any 5-point plans to answer any of your questions, I’m not here to teach you anything or be an expert about anything.

I write because…

I participated in a bible study session with my small group towards the end of last year… it’s small, and I’ve known some of them a long time but, despite this, as we’re introducing the topic for discussion I get this hot flush through my body, a rising sense of discomfort, I’m not sure I agree with what you’re saying but I can’t articulate why.   In the interim, others weigh in: “I haven’t heard it put like that before…”, “I agree…”

What I have to express at this time is “I’m not sure I agree with that…” or “That isn’t how I would see it”.  The difficulty in expressing that, is that it begs the obvious follow up questions “How do you see it?” or “What do you think is happening in the passage instead?” I know I don’t have the answers for those questions yet.

What is the value in pointing out to someone you think there’s an alternative interpretation if you cannot articulate it? My silence is my mind working a mile a minute to process what I’m thinking but in the meantime the conversation moves on – there is further affirming of the original interpretation and as each layer/next question is applied to the text, they are read within the lens of this.  Now I am still working on what I think but there is increasing pressure – it was going to be awkward suggesting an alternative interpretation to one person (what if the ‘revelation’ of this study hangs on the basis of this suggested interpretation?) but now others have concurred and the conversation has moved on, jumping in now will actually be disruptive and, as others also agreed with the original interpretation, I need to ‘make a case’ solid or justifiable enough to de-rail the conversation.

As the conversation has built from the initial interpretation – whatever idea my brain is developing – it is trying to crap test in light of these next questions. My discomfort increases as the original concept gets progressively developed.   I step out of the chat, no new input until I can get my head around the initial idea. Session winds down and I take my journal and sit outside and scribble – it helps me to think about an idea to take it out and look at it.

I write to say the things unsaid and to know myself better.   We need to communicate in different ways, yes, and we need to listen in different ways and have different spaces to communicate in. I write to explore what all these might be and what I might be.

 

I write because…

Lydia Wylie-Kellerman wrote a beautiful sermon for Pentecost and also to honour her Dad’s 10 years of ministry at St Peter’s Episcopal Church in Detroit… asking what does it mean for us to be followers of a subversive Storyteller?  Some excerpts:

“Stories are about communication, about when to listen and when to speak, and understanding in our own language…”

“Storytelling spaces are disappearing.”

“Telling stories is an act of resistance. It is part of discipleship. It is movement work. Stories are provocative and powerful while at the same time nourishing. They hold us. They remind us who we are. They help us know who we want to become.”

With social media the world seems terribly small sometimes – just these past weeks my Facebook feed has been filled with the trial outcome of the rape of a woman at Stanford and now this terrible shooting at the gay bar Pulse in Orlando (on a Trans and Latino/Latinx night on Puerto Rican Heritage Day during Pride Month).  There would have been a time when such events were beyond the scope of knowing occurring far away but now, for days at a time, we are touched by layers of pain from such events.  I don’t personally know anyone impacted first hand by these events but I know many impacted by the ripples as each new headline flashes up like a neon sign advertising darkness.  “My FB feed has been filled”… I think of the native wisdom of the story of the two wolves  and wonder if I have not lost my appetite.  You see it’s not the stories of rescue, or redemption, or hope that seem to go ‘viral’ but the brokenness that seems to be replicated over and over again until it is part of the perpetuating harm itself.  Is there any way it could be different? What choices are we making about what stories, voices, news, good news, we are perpetuating?  What is in the ‘feed’ you are serving?

Jenny Peek at Yale Divinity School puts it like this: “I don’t want this fear to have the final word, because all too often fear is at the root of our hatred, disgust, and division. So instead I want to share a verse that continues to give me hope and direction even in times like this:

1 John 4:11-12 – Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is made complete in us.”

I write because I want to read stories that nourish me (and I try not to ask of others what I’m not willing to do myself). I want us to understand and to love one another.  The world is inexplicably wounded and inexhaustibly good… tell me about that… don’t leave out the inexhaustibly good part.

 

I write because…

Last month I was privileged to meet Aunty Sharyn an Indigenous Christian leader from Brisbane and hear her story.  A vocation rising out of her own personal experience, Aunty Sharyn has started up B’ira – a significant community ministry addressing domestic violence and sexual abuse in Indigenous communities. Bir’a Women’s Ministry (Bir’a is Wakka Wakka Language for ‘High Spirit’) is all about when ‘Women meet Jesus’. They run yarning circles – providing a safe space to talk through grief, trauma, healing and relationships and do art therapy for when we can’t find, or just don’t have, the words to describe what has happened to us. I was put in mind of the women in Mark (5:21-43).

Jesus is walking along with his disciples  and a leader of the Synagogue comes along asking for healing for his daughter who is unwell. Jesus agrees to come, yet along the way a bleeding woman who, against all purity codes, reaches out to touch a Jewish man in the desperation and hope of being healed. This woman reaches out for and takes what will heal her.  v.29 “Immediately her haemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.” but v.33-34 goes on to say  “the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.  He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”  She had already been healed of the physical symptoms (v.29), this second healing (v.34) addresses the mental anguish of what the disease had cost. Exclusion from temple which was a central part of life, if she had a husband perhaps he left – not being able to touch what she had touched or share intimacy, to spend time with her would be to take on the limitations of impurity and ritual cleaning yourself, perhaps people worried they might catch the disease, perhaps the priests tried various means and methods of cleansing or praying out demons… what isolation and exclusion had this woman known over these 12 years?  How long does it take to pour out this tale of grief, fear and loneliness?  Long enough for the Synagogue leader’s daughter to die – does one person’s healing come at the cost of another’s? No.

I write because I want to encounter God, I want to be heard and healed and whole, and for others to have that too.  What part does truth telling have to play in our healing? {personal, family, community, political…?} We need times and spaces to hear the whole truth, we need to be willing to tell our truth, we need to be willing to listen.

 

You see.  All I have are fragments. Fragments of listening, voices – others and my own – word weaving or stitching together some patchwork of understanding from stories…

I don’t know that you can call this “feminist theology”.  This is only what theology has ever been – codified collective human experience – stories, poems, liturgy, literature, prophecy and cultural influences trying to understand the shape of something bigger and beyond ourselves.

It is not finished.