Twice in recent weeks, I have been the recipient of a moment of instantaneous, unexpected healing. It’s not like I don’t believe God can miraculously heal people, but, like, well… does God really work that way today? I mean, really really?
The first healing was from a wound inflected by a bishop who abruptly abandoned her flock, leaving people I love bereft, confused, hurt, and angry. These were people who had been damaged by the church, and this abandonment harmed them one more time. It’s one thing to hurt me, but it’s something entirely different when you hurt people I care about, especially people I know to be wounded and broken and utterly precious. But this bishop is in Scotland, and I am in the States, and I had no access to her. Instead, I projected my own hurt and anger onto the priest of my home parish here in Virginia. And since I don’t have good role models for appropriately expressing anger, I just distanced myself from the parish and from our priest.
But that morning several weeks ago, I sat in the adult discussion forum where we discussed Psalm 23 and the approach that Catechesis of the Good Shepherd takes to presenting it to children, and this wound was suddenly and instantly healed. The burden of anger and hurt was gone, and I joined my parish family at the Table with joy and not merely obligation.
The second happened this morning, during the Eucharistic Prayer, when it came to me that I am still a Dominican, that I will always be a Dominican, that Dominican spirituality is the home and resting place for my heart. Baffled, I turned to Kristin and said, “I think… I think I will be wearing my habit to church next week.” When I told the priest, he laughed as I stomped my foot and said “Stupid God! This is not what I expected! This is not the path I thought I was on!”
This wound was more complicated, and it was bound up in my own misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the direction of my life for the last year. The wound had to do with leadership within the Order, my disagreement with the direction in which that leadership was moving, my participation in the leadership Council, and my sense that my contribution to that Council was being misconstrued to my Brothers and Sisters in the Order. Thankfully, I was not elected into leadership at last year’s Chapter, so this would not continue to chafe and frustrate me.
With that frustration came two new parts of my journey that took most of my energy over the last year. Kristin began to publicly identify as a woman, to come out to our congregation and to dress and act as a woman everywhere she went. I had to learn what it meant to be publicly married to her as a woman, to think about things like restroom safety and perceptions of us as a couple. And I was promoted to my first position as a manager of other people, leading a small team of analysts at my job. It is something I’d wanted since I started my career… but when it happened, I was humbled, awed, and terrified at the responsibility. I’ve had to lean what it means to be a manager, not just what I picked up in B-school (for the second masters degree that I started but never finished) but what it means for real people with the skin on. These two things have been huge in my life, but they are settling down, being integrated into who I am, and the time of sometimes-uncomfortable growth has become more relaxed.
And so I wrote to the Master of the Order this afternoon, when we got home from church, to ask about the status of the dispensation of my life vows that I had requested a year ago. See, when you ask to be dispensed from life vows, what happens is that you have a trial separation – just like when you get divorced. There was a period of no less than one year for prayer and discernment, to determine whether I really am called to separate from the Dominicans.
A couple weeks ago, I applied for a training program in spiritual direction, for which I had to write eight essay responses plus a journey story. In one of those essay responses, I said I had come to peace with having such a deep love and admiration for monastic spirituality, knowing that I should live under a rule of life, but not finding a monastic community that is just right. But the thing is, the Anglican Dominicans are just right. Dominican spirituality is very practical, very adaptable. And I will always be on the bleeding edge, pushing against authority, especially when that authority is very authoritative and hierarchical. I am a Meister Eckhart Dominican, a Matthew Fox Dominican. I’m the kind of Dominican who makes trouble for the institution because Christ’s love is so scandalously huge and powerful that it breaks all the rules. I’m the kind of Dominican who gets silenced, excommunicated… and then beatified and sainted.
So I’m intrigued and bemused. I’m irritated at the Holy Spirit for sticking her nose in and messing up all my plans. I’m amused at my own frustration. And just like every other time I sense that God has work for me to do, I’m sitting here with a whole pile of WTF.