And I am a woman. And I am inescapably (my conflict avoidant 20-something self tried to escape) a pastor. And I grew up in the Christian Missionary Alliance (a really generally great family of Jesus followers. Unfortunately, though, when a friend of mine asked a leader in that family of faith when women would be pastos with them he heard back: “Not in your lifetime.” It is a generally great family of faith where, when I shared my calling with a youth leader, he told me “That’s either a call to marry a pastor or a call from the devil”).
And I don’t want to fight.
When it comes to being a pastor, I want to play and make and laugh and dance. I’m also okay with crying. And there is plenty of that. But I don’t want to fight.
So over the years I’ve looked for what I’ve called open fields. I have this mental image of a green pasture with swings, a slide, an easel, and maybe - probably - a cute little puppy. Probably a corgi puppy. No definitely a corgi. Like the ones in all those youtube videos that haven’t yet figured out how to go up stairs. Oh! and lots of play/creation mates who will romp around and laugh, paint, sing, and frolic the Kingdom of God’s love and justice into immediate presence. Oh! and in this wide open field, no one is upset that I am both a woman and a pastor.
There are also probably bubbles there. We definitely have to be blowing bubbles in this mental image of mine - the big mythic ones from the science center.
I think I’ve been a pilgrim toward this epically awesome field since I was 12-years-old. And I’m inching closer to a place like that. Moving from the Christian Missionary Alliance to eventually a Quaker community and finally (I hope finally but who ever knows the future) the Disciples of Christ, I’ve found a family of faith who loves and supports rather than villainizes my calling.
But, I’ve realized that wide open field I’m on a pilgrimage to doesn’t exist. Or, maybe it does. But, because it belongs to the God of radical welcome and inclusion, there aren’t fences. So anyone can pass by and see my playing and making and laughing and dancing. Anyone can walk up to me. Anyone can say - and even out of love: “What you’re doing is sinful. You should repent.”
I’m never going to be sheltered from that.
And, as one of my favorite things about this wide open field is that there is room and welcome for everyone - from prostitutes to pharisees - I guess I just have to live with the reality that, at any minute, someone can come up and tell me that my playful collaborative kindling of the Kingdom of love and justice is sinful. It happens all the time. The second I don’t expect it, there it is. Even in the check out line at a Whole Foods in Seattle one time. Even there.
As I’ve recently stepped back into the role of pastor, alongside my also-pastor husband who is wonderfully supportive and points to me as the “lead” pastor of this new thing, I often find my conflict avoidant self paralyzed in my playful work by fear that the next person that we talk to, who looks at my husband first and primarily about our work, will tell me how sinful I am when they realize that I am a pastor and a wife but not a “pastor’s wife.” I find myself wanting to find a place to hide in this wide open field. I find myself glad that I am short and small and wondering if I could just hide behind my pastor husband.
So I realize: if I want to play, I have to also fight.
The playing and making and laughing and dancing that I feel called to is not wistful play. This play is serious play. It is courageous play. It is wounded-but-still-standing play. It is weeping-while-laughing play. It’s tag-out-so-my-husband-or-brother-or-mentor-or-friend-can-tag-in-while-i-tend-to-wounds play. It’s get-home-at-the-end-of-the-day-and-my-bright-summer-dress-is-dirty-and-torn play. And when I get home all broken, dirty, tear-stained, and yet joyful, the holy Mother I come home to will say: “Those were your good clothes. Look at your knees. Your face is buried beneath caked-on dirt and tears. Were you fighting? You were fighting again, weren’t you. ….I’m so proud of you. Come in and have some fair trade hot cocoa. [note, the following may be apocryphal - but I hope not] Also: there is a corgi puppy waiting for you and trying to climb the stairs. She looks really silly. You could put it on youtube.”
I want to play and make and laugh and dance. But I have to remember it is a tenacious play that I’m called to in that wide, green, and intentionally - perpetually - unfenced field.