…. I gained a new attachment to the Holy Spirit, whom I steadfastly experienced as “she”. She was unpredictable. She was not safe. She was life giving. While my heart continued to swell whenever I heard a string of wild geese passing overhead, I also learned to recognize the shrill call of a red-tailed hawk who hunted the fields around my house. I knew that she ate the wide-eyed field mice with the white bellies whom I liked so much, along with any chick that strayed too far from it’s mother’s shadow, but I could not hold that against her. It was the price of her wild beauty, the price I paid to watch her fly!
To see her fold her wings and stoop, falling through the air like a lighting bolt on her prey, was to wonder if Jesus did not see something more like that than “something like a dove” when the heavens split open at his baptism. Maybe the gospel writers did not want to scare the rest of us off, so they left out the part about the talons. I will never know, but I do know that as I emerged out from under the safety of one pair of wings, I was ready to climb onto the back of another. I was even ready to be gripped in her claws, if that was what it took to be carried aloft. – Barbara Brown Taylor
I gave my life to God on the second floor of a music studio in Manhattans Theatre District. The eclectic bunch of actors, dancers, models and musicians that grew from a weekly bible study to a full-blown ministry was very likely what my heart needed to accept a Jesus I couldn’t see. I didn’t need him to be black or white or dressed in priestly robes followed by a throng of onlookers begging to touch him. I didn’t need it to make sense.
When I met the tiny female past of the congregation I knew the moment as my introduction to an expression of God I needed to see. Opening my heart to the concept of she in church would help me make sense of the spirit rumblings in my heart. I’ve welcomed the female as part of the divine my entire life but saw no mirroring of this in my everyday world. This was the late 80’s and although female pastors were a thing – they were also a thing to question. Sitting under the teaching of a female pastor made me deal with a heavily embedded patriarchal view of the church, one I couldn’t trace because of my distance from all things church as a child. Where had that come from?
More importantly she taught a heavily almost cultic dependency on the Holy Spirit. Here, the Holy Spirit determined how long service lasted from week to week, determined if a couple should marry or not, and spoke out in the middle of services through a fully surrendered congregant. The spirit instructed, directed … taught. Pentecost happened and the spirit gave – life. The spirit gave love. In practice the spirit functioned as Amma, Ema, Mama.
This non-denominational with a Pentecostal vibe was the contrary, fully embodied, fire-baptized, tongue speaking experience I needed to feel God in his entirety. Surely woman was part of that. An ancient knowing I could never explain told me so. This was a Jesus who honored women, a Jesus I could feel. No matter what happened or as afraid as I might be of a future in Christ or what this God thing would do to me, I knew my conversion as complete. There was no turning back.
Fast forward almost 30 years and I’m wrestling with the rumblings again. I identify with Barbara Brown Taylor’s identification with the Holy Spirit as unsafe, wild, capricious, even dangerous. And again I find myself figuring out but not running away from the scars I’ve gained from a life in Christ. Instead I find myself ever turning toward. And in that turning, that acknowledgment that something, he, she, it is there, I find myself willing to pay whatever price, count any cost, bear the mark of a woman in Gods grip.
In God’s grip, I won’t lose sight of the wild geese, the field mice or the baby chicks. A soul stilled by the blessing of a glimpse of such wild beauty knows its place in the eternal. In stillness, I’m learning to see and to remember. I am and will always be – part of the sacred cycle. God’s creation. Life. Soul-flight of this kind, is worth any price for the gift of memory. And I remember. I do. I am held, yet free. Wild.
Let your handmaiden find grace in your sight … #GiveMeGrace