Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Memoir Musings Part Four: Lady Wisdom

It's TAX day! Some of us enjoy the privilege of paying taxes that others who can't pay may enjoy needed services provided the government manages tax and service with equity and generosity in balance. If you can swallow that sentence whole and digest it without much argument you're in balance yourself!

One of my favorite biblical characters turned out to be Lady Wisdom, spirit of creativity and formation. Wisdom is portrayed as the feminine face of God, God’s sidekick in all things. Without Wisdom you don’t get very far in life. I’d valued wisdom, the integration of knowledge with experience, but had often confused it with bookishness, reading more than I digested and way more than I could possibly use—or integrate.

Biblical Wisdom calls us to “lay aside immaturity” (Prov 7:6a) She invites us to the table to eat of the meal she has prepared and drink of the wine she has mixed. She confirmed for me my principal reason for wanting to be a priest.

Wisdom was female now. I couldn’t afford to be without her, apocryphal or not. I prayed for ordination and for Wisdom, my vocational arc increasingly bending like a birch toward a truth I trusted: that all life is sacred, sacramental, everything a visible sign of an invisible grace, everyone holy.

As I read about Wisdom, I learned she had many fine attributes, more than her Boss in fact. One of her qualities listed in the Book of Wisdom is shrewdness. I loved that. Shrewd is related to the now obsolete shrew, something I once heard my father call my mother. Shrewdness enables someone to make astute judgments sometimes without cold hard facts. It’s like cunning and maybe wily, which brings me straight to the holiness of many biblical women who used their wiles to seduce dangerous men and eliminate (murder) them as enemies of the plans of God. May not be the best ethics or theology but in a power-happy world what can you expect even if you don’t approve? Today the same.

Wisdom, shrewd and wily, also seemed like a divine kind of mother to me, one who trains her children in survival skills, who teaches all her children wisdom, and fills them with joy. I also read: “At first she will walk with them on tortuous paths; she will bring fear and dread upon them and will torment them by her discipline until she trusts them.” (Sirach 4: 17)

What kind of mother was that? Well, maybe Mother Church. She could fill me with dread and fear and torture me with her closed doors. When would I be trusted? I wondered as I wandered.

All I could do was keep on, keep on, keep on. I got lots of support, lots of “milk” along the way. But the wilderness could be lonely. Friends and family got sick of my laments and my desires, to say nothing of my radicalized politics.

Determination to achieve my goal made me gritty.

As the years went by I reared four children, went to seminary, did everything in the parish church that I could except join Altar Guild—enough washing and ironing at home. I developed spiritual muscle. I grew tall inside. Adversity, not comfort, shapes souls.

A tender sorrow accompanied me, but it wasn’t bitter and no longer overwhelmed me. My own true voice began to sound more and more like the voice of divine Wisdom I’d heard from time to time inside myself.

That inner voice had awakened me and set me on the wilderness path in the first place. It spoke one day when I was baking chocolate chip cookies, batch # 1 million. They were good and brought pleasure and I was a good mother, but God-in-me gave me Wisdom who said, “Why are you doing this?”

Now I was in the wilderness trying to answer that simple shrewd question, trying to make it to the promised land which I thought was ordination.

Once along my “prayerful” obsessive way Wisdom interrupted me saying, “Lyn, I don’t care if you’re ordained.” Insulted as I felt, She made me laugh. Wisdom can be fresh—funny with a bite. But I suppose she takes her assignments seriously.