There’s a story I’ve been listening to for years about a woman who met a man at a well. I’ve heard the woman called many things. Sinful. Scandalous. Promiscuous.
She was married five times, and when we meet her in the story, she was living with a man who wasn’t even her husband.
But what if we’ve missed something all this time?
My mom likes to tell me a story about a cold November night when her and my dad threw on their tennis shoes, bundled up in their coats and walked four miles. After the walk, they changed into their pajamas and played Yahtzee. They filled up an entire score card that night, crawling into bed well after midnight. The next morning she woke up in labor and I was born just before lunch.
The Israelites had a pattern of “sin, judgement, repentance and rescue.” Over and over again. They wandered away from, they ended up oppressed under a foreign ruler, and then they would repent and God would rescue them, and then they’d fall right back into the same pattern as before.
I'm a female pastor and people often ask how that plays out in our home. Jeff and I do not live into traditional gender roles. I worked hard to earn a master’s degree and pursue a full time career/vocation, while Jeff has made many sacrifices to be the full time caregiver of our four children. Trading and sharing and mixing our gender roles isn’t always easy for other people to understand, nor is it always easy for us to navigate.
Looking back, I’m not sure how I survived the baby years. I’m just coming out of the throes of 24/7 parenting after five years of caring for babies. My youngest is 18-months-old and all of the baby gear is officially gone. There are no more swaddles or swings, bouncers or binkis. There is just one item I’m hanging on to, because the sleep and sanity of our family depends on it. Each and every one of our babies required a sound machine to fall asleep at night. The crackling static, like a radio dial between stations, signals my brain that the day is winding down.
Advent has seemed darker than usual this year. There have been a series of horrific events, instilling fear and robbing us of peace. Simultaneously, the political climate is increasingly hostile, and disciples of Jesus are divided and suspicious of one another.
I zoomed in, and in, and in, until I could closely see the cuts and curves of a blade of wild grass. Everything behind it blurred and blended into the background. Chiggers gnawed at my ankles as I circled around the shot, trying to capture the desired hue of orange and magenta bursting through the empty spaces in the frame.
The first Sunday at our new church I walked into the nursery to leave my toddler, and she ran to a pile of raggedy stuffed animals. She grabbed and kissed and wiped her nose all over them.
Imagine a fleet of 20 boats out at sea, with a limited supply of fuel and resources. We could send all 20 boats on their way with the hope of getting to shore, each with their own idea of how to get there.
It was the end of August 2012, and I was seven months pregnant. My husband, two daughters and I loaded up a U-haul truck and watched Chicago disappear in the rearview mirror. We drove west 700 miles until we hit Nebraska.
The moment Lucy was born, I immediately felt a connection. But it wasn’t until Day 2 that I experienced a bond. I was sitting in a large overstuffed chair, the foot stool piled high with books. I was a full time Seminary student at the time, and I was very delusional that I would give birth and get right back to studying. Our bags from the hospital were still sitting in the living room, because no one had gotten a wink of sleep in 36 hours.
Have you ever used the expression “if these walls could talk”? Sometimes I think that the walls in a pastor’s office could tell the kinds of stories that make for great movies and best selling novels. They could tell beautiful stories of redemption and courage, where good people in bad situations overcome difficult odds. These are the kinds of stories where the Spirit’s presence is undeniable and God’s purposes revealed in new and significant ways. Still, there are thicker and darker moments that hold confessions of grief, envy and doubt. In those moments, people let go of secrets and dissonant emotions in wavering whispers.