Tag Archives: despair

Only you God can fill me

I remember a long time ago having a lunch with a friend who was a priest. Before eating he said “only you oh God can fill me” or something similarly worded. He said the idea was to not overeat. I can be a bit of a comfort eater myself. If I feel anxious or lonely or bored or guilty or any negative feeling I can imagine that I need something that tastes nice to distract me and then I eat it fast and want more. I thought the words were a good meditation, encouraging me to stop, consider my need for food- for the physical sustenance of it as well as the sensuous pleasure and to remember that food is a good but it is not the ultimate.

God is the ultimate.

I am still a person full of nervous habits- overeating, chewing pens or my own lip, tensing my jaw, tapping things. I still struggle to get a hold of myself and defeat panic and procrastination and the tendency to isolate myself or binge on social networking. I often focus on my flaws and unworthiness. I often obsessively need to be approved of by others, to be seen to be performing well, to be seen as someone gifted or good. I still have willpower issues and sometimes stay at a party too late or drink too much.

So I am not sharing this sentence as a magical “cure” for human frailty but it is a useful sentence nevertheless.

As I have meditated on it, in the context of letting go of a past relationship that was not working, in the context of choosing to accept that I am gay, in the promise to myself that I will say “no” or “maybe” to as many people as I need to rather than rushing desperately into any relationship available I think I have started to grow- not necessarily in virtue but in joy and quality of life. Because only God can fill me, so I can let go of my need for someone else to say “sorry” or to hold me. I can let go of my envy that someone has an easier life than I do. I can let go (slowly) even of my anger at the opportunities I feel I was robbed of, by being raised so fearful. I can let go of anything that demands that I hurt of humiliate others. I can really and truly love without the desperate need for someone to make it “worth it”. I can love as an act of freedom, rather than as a transaction, and I can accept love with gratefulness rather than skepticism or the burden of obligation.

Because only God can fill me.

God is always listening, always breathing with me. Always watching and holding and knowing. God fills up my days with the million things I used to dare not believe in- the phone-call may be from someone who cares about me. The coffee may clear my head. The birds singing may be a sign of a beautiful day to come. There are no guarantees of exactly how the day will unroll, except that God will be there.

Filling me with love. Filling me with joy. Filling me with sacrament.

I woke in horrible flu and asthma pain the other night and thought long and hard about this idea that only God can fill me. And I was filled with tears and snot and desperation for a still space in the night for me to breathe and not be in pain and that space was simply not available. And I saw what a coward I am about pain and I felt that I really couldn’t bear it and I started weeping tears for people on hard inadequate beds on manus island or on the streets. I started weeping for people dying or terminal diseases. I was angry with God, because I wanted to feel joy and love and all the good things and I simply wasn’t feeling anything precious or peaceful or even bearable. All the world felt like it was camped on my chest squishing the life out of me, and since I had run out of ventolin I couldn’t even alleviate my asthma enough to breathe properly.

“I said you were what could fill me God” I said and I was angry because I never asked for snot and horrible feelings. And I thought of Jesus, full of Godness and love being crucified and how horrible it must be to wait for nothing better than death.

I stretched out my arms and there was the box of tissues and water bottle and lozenges that my son had brought to me as part of his “caring about mum” dance of the evening before. I was in pain and angry but I was loved. I am always loved.

It’s hard to put into words what that means because the pain was still pain and I am no damn good with pain. The pain was there but it was not everything, it can never be everything even when it takes over. Even if (God forbid) it had kept going forever or killed me it would not have been everything.

Because only God can fill me.

As I think of the way the environment is dying (which is already causing huge human suffering) and the hate-talk by so many people in society and the way we treat refugees and basically anyone different from us, my heart is more than sore. It is hard to see any hope for a future and I love my children and want them to be able to have children in turn- I want this world to work better so we can continue as a species. It looks pretty bleak I must say.

I see no realistic way anything good will happen.

I see no future for our species at the moment.

People say I am an “idealist” full of crazy hopes because I get political and try to help make a better world but I know the odds are stacked against us. I don’t hope because I am some sort of a naive optimist, or because I am unaware of how powerful the human forces are that keep all the various oppressions in place.

I hope because only God can fill me. Despair is there but it does not fill me.

Only God can fill me.

 

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Dark Days

“May you live in interesting times” the ancient curse goes and this week more than ever before I can feel it. On a personal note I have issues of the many headed (and always growing new heads) beast of poverty with my fridge broken, my drains blocked, my car damaged by hailstones that make cherries looks small by comparison, debt, fines, and loss of license (so maybe the car doesn’t matter). I work hard enough and long enough to not be getting my academic writing done (nor anything creative) but not enough to survive on. Last night I realised just how much the ongoing and recurring stresses of this year have harmed me but also that I have beautiful friends in my life. I am not just whinging, this is a common theme at the moment among low income earners whose belts are being cinched tighter than is reasonable – and the loss of good health and educational outcomes (for example) that go with it should also concern us when we consider how many like me might have small children. Anyway even middle-aged disgruntled ranters like me matter as human beings.

On a less personal note I can turn to the world of politics where it seems that evil and inhumane madness is running rampant throughout the world- that many people hate the disadvantaged “other” even more than they love their own interests and we constantly vote in madmen (gender intentional and largely justified) who we then use as role models for truly anti-social behaviour and beliefs.

And yet as one of my friends in the Greens reminded on Facebook there are little wellsprings of hope…small triumphs for love (such as “Wicked campers” told they can’t put misogynist and violent slogans on their vans anymore and some US states bringing in preferential voting). Another friend reposted Todd Beaupre’s assertion that: “Tomorrow, I will not define myself by the future President. I will use whatever freedom and privilege I have to keep making this world what I want it to be. Donald Trump is one person in a powerful position, but he will not control my life. And my friends and allies who may not be as privileged as I am, know that I am still here for you. My America means love, positivity, truth, rewarding hard work while supporting those who struggle to keep up, freedom, and peace. I will not be silenced. Hillary may have lost, but there are still many millions of Americans who will show tomorrow and every day after, that LOVE STILL WINS. Who is with me?” (I have no idea who Todd Beaupre is but I thought the quote worth circulating.)

So these friends have reminded me firstly, not to neglect my blog even though I feel full of despair and snowed under, and secondly to take this opportunity to make a commitment that I feel echoes my baptismal and confirmation commitment to walk with God. So I will take a few small moments to try to put that into words

In a world where the hatred of others teaches me anger, I will nevertheless strive to speak with love and kindness.

I will be courageous is speaking out against abusive ways of viewing other people and the world, but I will not seek to humiliate or stereotype those I debate with.

I will look to notice those who are made invisible by discourses of might and privilege. I will give them words of recognition and friendship and silences of deep listening.

I will be kind to myself and pursue enjoyment with my friends up to a point, but will not allow escapist activities or ways of thinking to sway me from the things that need to be done.

I will listen to the people who love me and open my heart to believe them that I am loved and loveable.

I will nurture and strengthen the wisdom, hope and loving-kindness of others knowing that their goodness may build a better world.

I will learn to be better at accessing the help I need from people and grow toward advocating also for others.

Yeah though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death I will reorient myself toward the loving God of all good possibilities, of life renewed.

I will do something today that is enjoyable. I will speak to someone today who I love.

I ask the strength of God to achieve this, the compassion of God when I fail in any of these and the joy of God in the living of my commitment to her eternal love. Amen.

And then right now I will do some work on my article 😉

 

 

 

Some of us have run out of wine

I have run out of wine! I started this blog because my heart was heavy with the burden of a ministry I had failed to realise. I was full of negative feelings such as guilt, anger, blame toward both myself and the church(es) that had not nurtured me better. For a while I felt that me blogging was a pointless exercise, and yet it was an outlet for feelings and thoughts which needed to be expressed and served also as a spiritual discipline focusing me on lectionary readings each week whether I liked them or not and forcing me to engage with them either adversarially or in an attempt to glean something of value.

I was grateful for the very, very small number of friends who made it obvious they had read my blog entries and encouraged me to persist. And as I put my words out there, I came to see that it was not all just about “preaching” in the narrow sense, where I think I have something of value and others need it but it was about my own struggle with my faith journey and engaging in that struggled moved me back toward church: surprisingly enough to the church of my childhood (though a transformed and transformative community). Once I was “back” in the church there was no fanfare or immediate reifying of my ministry and I am ashamed to have felt so anticlimactic about the whole thing but there were crumbs of encouragement in liturgies, in things that were said and in the readings themselves.

I was asked to preach one day and I felt euphoria and joy as if that one event was some sort of realisation, and end of a struggle (but of course it was not). From that event, and from my now more frequent attendance at church as I am relearning that maturity means sometimes honouring the community not just acting like a selfish individual has grown an opportunity to participate in writing, collating and delivering liturgies and the desire to make them meaningful and affirming is still strong in me. I have learned that there may be more readers of my blog than is obvious to me week to week and have laughed at myself for still being weak and childish enough to need people’s approval and “praise”.

This journey is mirrored by the progress I have made in my professional and in the beginning steps of my academic life too. I have learned much, changed and grown and begun to experience a hard-won success.

I have identified a purpose and a direction to my life and all should be as a wedding feast. I ought to feel full of confidence and energy to extend hospitality to people and to bring the best of my inner gifts to the table for sharing with people who bring so much to me! “Ought to” I say, as though I hadn’t learned by now that the world is not governed by “ought tos” and “shoulds” and that whatever deeper reality we feel is possible and right is always one we need to struggle for (and forgive ourselves for frequently failing).

If we can reclaim Mary, not as a hyperfeminine vessel for the patriarchy of the church but as first apostle and nurturer of all that is Christ-like and wise then perhaps she at this time in my life, in all these times in all our lives turns a motherly glance at me/us. “Poor darling” she might say, “you have run out of wine”; and then the good advice has to follow (I did say motherly) “Do whatever he tells you”. “He” in this situation meaning Christ, meaning the God who has embraced and lived humanity but somehow at times transforms and transcends the exhausted and uncertain humanity that is all we know.

How then does Jesus respond to us running out of the “wine” of our ministry, the “wine” of our wisdom and the “wine” of our energy for goodness and beauty? Does he say “that’s ok then you rest and I will do everything?” It is tempted to read a God of miracles in this way. To see us as able to do nothing more than ask for grace and wait patiently for Jesus/God to accomplish all. But Jesus demands a more exhausting collaborative approach. You have run out of wine, out of the good stuff? Alright then bring water. Bring the mundane stuff of your labour and good intentions to me. That is so unbelievably unglamorous to do isn’t it? To spend long stretches of time bringing nothing but our ordinary labour and out common place accomplishments to God. These times lack the euphoria, the deep feeling of connection with God or the universe, the lightning-bright glint of revelation and the winged-feet feeling of success. We simple plod and plod and plod and bring boring old water to God to be blessed.

That is the “coal face” of faith, the place where the euphoria ends and we are still our own boring and fallible selves with our own boring and somewhat (at times) unfulfilling lives struggling to make meaning and struggling to grasp the moral politics of the reign of God from a place of exhaustion and uncertainty and surrounded by less than ideal understanding and nurture.

So when at Jesus’ word we give a taste of the water to the “chief steward” to those who are able to receive, judge and distribute our ministry and when the chief stewards of our ministry tell us that our ministry is the “good wine”, they may tell us we are good at preaching or good at counselling or good at leading- the temptation after all our hard work and despair is to feel pride, not just a healthy sense of accomplishment but an identifying of the self with the accomplishment. Then it is easy to get fancier and fancier, to fall in love with our own cleverness and success and perhaps popularity too and to lose sight of the need to be bread broken, not just a fancy and overly rich gravy.

And this happens to me.

Because of the depth of despair and cowardice and emotional pain and failure that I have experienced, when I begin to succeed then I want to see myself as forever transformed into a “wine maker” that can do no wrong. My pride in this situation holds many dangers, the obvious one is the narcicissm of forgetting to self-question and assuming your own infallibility. In the past I have been very critical of this lack of reflexivity in successful and charismatic others, so I need to keep that in my own mind as I at times experience success.

Other dangers are the loss of empathy and kindness as I become impatient with those who do not understand what I am saying, or who think differently. There is also the very great danger of despair when I fail to live up to unreasonable standards within myself- there is the all-or-nothing approach where a bad day or a bad week or a misstep damns me right back into perpetual failure and self-hate. All of these are the blights of pride, if I see any part of my ministry as bigger than it is, or as all my own work.

In preaching for example, it is entirely possible that my words could be wrong and therefore others who hear them need to always be free not to agree with me. But it is also possible when others gain something of value from my preaching, that the water was only water but that God turned it into wine not at its source, but somewhere between me and the person who heard the words. The wine might only become wine in the chief-steward’s mouth for all we know.

So in this grey time, when I cannot seem to put a foot right; when I have become addicted to a spiritual feeling of connection and euphoria which I ought to have been experienced enough to know was unsustainable; when there are simply not enough hours in the hot and sometimes lonely days and old anxieties resurface to drive a wedge between me and my support networks. When the temptation once again is to “drop out” of studies and church and even of my friendships and simply go to work and read novels. In this grey time all I see before me are water jars to do very ordinary tasks. I have run out of wine for others, for myself.

I have nothing to give.

I will continue to bring water then, since I don’t have wine remembering in the words of the second reading that my gifts were “for the common good” not for my own ego or individual success. I will follow the apostles like Mary, who point me toward Christ to take my cues from the one who makes meaning from my mundane, who changes my water into wine.

Sometimes the best wine comes much, much later than we would expect.

Fix You

Trigger warning: There are some awful themes in this story which some people might find unhelpful to think about (PTSD, rape, torture, depression) Please look after yourself in your choice whether to read on. I think I steer clear of anything graphic

After it happened I was alone in the dark and felt nothing but my wounds. I wondered if I was weeping tears, or maybe blood. I wondered if the thing that had been taken from me was my soul. There was an emptiness, soulless…something was missing.

“I am a worm and no human,” I knew the words. Suffering was meant to bring me closer to God. I heard them laughing, feasting, the hum of their machines and the clink of their coins but I was spent. I had no energy. I was dryer than the most barren wasteland. I lay there, trembling with anger and disgust, unable even to swoon into a sleep. They kept the lights on all night.

The doctor of course tried to help me. He said I needed to stop talking about it, or thinking about it. I was dramatising instead of forgiving and healing. I had to give the tablets a chance to work, after they had fixed me so that I could speak without all the hysterical crying then he would let me talk – in a controlled and therapeutic way that didn’t encourage all these self-indulgent tears.

“This’ll do the trick!” he cheerfull prescribed six of the gigantic, lavender coloured tablets, “This is much more than an ordinary dose, but sometimes if a patient is very resistant to the therapeutic effect, that is what we need to do. I will just ring up to get permission to prescribe the overdose.” My stomach felt like it sunk into my feet. Even for a deeply depressed person I was “abnormal” and difficult.

Even though I wasn’t to talk about “the event”, the doctor did ask me a lot of questions and drew charts about my parents, my children, my relationships to the ones who had raped me. All my history came out – that time in Pompeii… “Sounds like anger management might be a good idea once the medication kicks in..” he pondered.

I really didn’t enjoy his manner, but what I hated more was the determinedly cheerful and infantilising television shows I had to endure in the waiting room, especially once the medication made me too dizzy to read. It was unfortunate that I hated the experience so much, because I founf I had to come back even before my three week appointment was due.

“The pills give me a stomach pain,” I explained

“You’ll get used to it,” he said heartily, “it’s worth it to feel better!” It was easy for him to deem my pain “worth it” for his goal. I sourly told him I would not continue on the pills. He talked section 2, said I could be detained for 28 days if I didn’t comply. I nodded obediently, intending to do the opposite in the privacy of my own home. He must have guessed because he talked me into trying another medication to minimise side effects.

I left with a prescription for 2 small, round, white tablets to stop the stomach pain caused by the 6 large purple ones.

I did try going off the purple tablets, but I found I couldn’t do it without support- the voices came back and the intense fear. I couldn’t sleep. I took the purple ones again although under them I felt dull, drowsy as if I had to fight even the simplest movements through a heavy ocean of cotton wool. I took the white tablets to control (not completely eliminate) the gut pain. I felt like I wanted to die, but now I was so drowsy that I lacked the willpower to act on it I guess that is how these things save lives.

I lacked willpower for other things too, like answering the phone. My beloved called but I was heavy and apathetic and distantly felt an anger for her anyway. Where was she when it all happened? But I didn’t want to talk about my anger, the purple pills had dulled it into a distant feeling of complacent despair. Whatever. Hives broke out on my dry and colourless skin. Whatever. But they were pretty itchy so I realised I better make another appointment with the cheerful poisoner, my doctor.

He prescribed three yellow tablets to counteract the side-effects for the two small, round, white tablets which I was taking to manage the pain from the six purple tablets. Even with government subsidies, the pharmacist demanded nearly all my measly pension. I had to give up breakfast and just eat toast for lunch and dinner (I had to have two meals as the purple tablets needed to be taken with food or I was told I wouldn’t keep them down.

I couldn’t sleep now. The yellow tablets seemed to get my mind stuck on a repeating track that kept me awake. Seeing the bags under my eyes and hearing my monosyllabic answers, the doctor prescribed two long white capsules.

These gave me an intense headache so he prescribed two green little tablets.

He kept asking impertinent questions, such as how was my sex drive. I told him impatiently that even though I didn’t have one, I didn’t want one that I was more concerned that I couldn’t even summon up the energy to answer the phone. He was angry, said I was being unfair to my husband by not having or wanting a sex-drive. I told him to look at his stupid little charts of my relationships. I didn’t have a husband. He said no wonder I couldn’t get a husband if I didn’t even take my lack of a sex drive seriously.

He tried to write a prescription. I tore it in half and shoved it in his not-any-longer-cheerful mouth, gave him a glass of water and patted him on the back gently to help him swallow.

Of course he had me detained for that and God only knows what they medicated me with when I was “away”. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t cry. I had nightmares, reliving the rape…or did that actually happen?

I am told I was loud and badly behaved and that they “had to” sedate me. I remember cruel voices and even the odd laugh, cold faces and a spark of will deep within me which they didn’t quite extinguish.

Within the spark of will, I wandered until I heard a bird singing. I smiled and pretended to agree with them so that they discharged me. Once out the door I closed my eyes, hearing a rainbow parrot’s friendly scolding. I remembered my beloved, still faithfully trying to track me down. I opened my eyes and fixed them on the red, green and every other colour plummage of the bird and walked off the edge of the tiny contsricting world the medical people had built for me. I wrote a song about my beloved. I kissed a rose petal and it released fragrance and softness.

My beloved sent me a parcel, she had been keeping my hopes- shrivelled little things- together for me. I tucked them into the folds of my skin, between the cracks in the corset they had stuffed me into and welded shut. I refused despair and grew tiny grass blades, exploding through microscopic gaps. Incredible saplings shot up where the despair had a fault line.

I heard my beloved’s voice, carried to me in the breeze.

“Beloved,” she whispered, “I want you to be free. Why do you still let them move over your skin and take what is not theirs.” They were her children and mine but she was filled with anger at them.

“They said they will fix me.” I told her, “They will do more research. They will find a way.”

“Is that really what you want?” my beloved spoke a cloud of endangered butterflies onto the flowers she and I had just tenderly grown in one of the few places where my skin was still mine.

“It hurts” I was ashamed to admit it, ashamed of my tears which the doctor had said were nothing but weakness and manipulation. My beloved had not listened to the doctor and she bent her face to me and kissed my tears.

“All of this must stop.” she set her stern face against them, “no more talk of fixing now or in some later time. You are not one of their machines, you are a body and a soul. You need to rest, breathe, heal rather than this mechanical ‘fixing'”

“I want to rest” I admitted

“My Gaia” the beloved’s face was kind to me but I fear that they do not listen to Her. They have fixed themselves with new gods- Scientific Fact, Reason and Efficiency. They are accountable to the greatest god the Economy. Mere lives and souls are as nothing before such gods.

And so the pain hasn’t stopped…

Actively being saved, the resurrection and putting in the hard yards

Wow what rich readings this week. It’s hard to put it all together and say anything new, I can tell this week is going to be a wrestling match. When looking at the first reading I got to the description of Jonathan as a “brother” whose love “surpassing the love of women” seems to call for my queer lens.

But I felt ambivalent about on the one hand an obvious possibility for a queer reading, on the other hand with Sedgwick’s Epistomology of the Closet still ringing in my (metaphorical ears) I wondered if I should respect David enough to leave him in his closet. I also felt ambivalent about whether this possible, closetted, open secret was in fact liberating from a female reader’s perspective in light of Sedgewick’s scholarship about the role of the (male) closet in keeping women out of the centre even of the heterosexual relationships that supposedly define them. David did have an awful lot of wives and concubines after all.

But if you are interested in the idea of David and Jonathan being lovers, here is a fairly clear laying out of the argument for, and here is a perfect example of a circular argument against the idea that David could possibly be a dirty queer in God’s sacred text (the bible does not contain dirty queers because dirty queers are not anywhere in the bible because they are dirty unlike God’s clean bible that doesn’t contain dirty queers). The bible of course is nothing more or less than the handbook of how to be a good fundamentalist.

What strikes me a lot more than the possible queerness, is the waste of human life. These kings generate war, war equals death and tears are the result (I have this conversation with my kindergarteners about unkind-play and stick-play almost every day: some of them – unlike some powerful adults- are starting to understand the cause and effect). David here mourns the deaths of such close friends, and yet the next time we see him I am sure he will be off “slaying” someone again or putting a loyal friend in the frontline so that he can get with his wife perhaps (I still don’t understand how the possible respectful gay relationship we could speculate about David having had is a greater moral problem than his dealing with Bathsheba and Uriah).

But staying with David’s genuine grief and emotional pain for the time being, the psalm says it all. Out of the depths we do cry. We do want God to come along and redeem our nation from all its iniquities. We want David in the story to find a better way forward. We yearn for that utopian dream that some of us may call the “kingdom of God”. I relate to the cold, bored and yet burdened with massive responsibility watchman longing to go off shift. Yes God hurry up…but this is where my agnosticism sets in. I don’t frankly believe that just waiting around for some sort of salvific act as reliable as the passing of time itself (unless we mean the extinction of our species– which frankly I am not waiting for so eagerly) is a morally defensible strategy in the depths of the despair of a plundered, besieged, unjust, neoliberal world. Stay with me though, I am about to do something uncharacteristic and agree with a Pope!

I wasn’t really seeing much to work with in the second reading until I read this (note the author saying that Paul echoes Pope Francis’ sentiments, while I loved the article in general this expression made me give a shout of laughter which almost got me kicked out of the library). I won’t paraphrase Anderson’s excellent argument, or Pope Francis’ clear thinking on the topic of the environment but if we do read the second reading as arguing for radical redistribution (including the Christ-like courage to become poor to enrich others and restore a “fair balance”) then this seems to show a much more real and urgent way “out of the depths” than passively waiting. There’s resurrection thinking here, a way modelled by Jesus but like all real resurrection thinking it demands we put in the hard yards (What did you think resurrection meant? A fairy godmother waving a wand? If only!)

Is this how God redeems us from all our iniquities? It’s inadequate when you consider that the more powerful have the choice not to be transformed by this word and this teaching. The little people are going to have to do more than count on the generosity of the ruling class. But we are also not the smallest of the little people. We do need to use our relative power and privilege to achieve this redistribution “for the relief of others”.

Let’s take those readings as baggage and stow them aboard ready to cross over again to the other side with Jesus (cf last week) into this week’s gospel. This week’s gospel suggests to me both an obvious feminist reading (about the interruption of the invisible, unacceptable woman in the middle and Jesus’ deliberate action in making her visible) and troubles me with its portrayal of Jesus as the male savior of helpless, inferior women. I can read the hemorrhaging woman as active in her own healing, and I like the way this calls into question Jesus’ performance of his gender. But the consent-nazi in me is still troubled when we reconceive Jesus (almost as a trans man) as the next installment in the character of the once female Wisdom, who is kind of like a sexy exotic dancer “asking for it” (Yes Jesus affirms the women grasping at him and Wisdom constantly invited everyone to visit, seek and pursue her but…troubling). Also if we begin to reconceive Jesus’ healing in a different way, saving as an erotic game-play (I am indebted for this idea to a speech I heard ages ago by a lesbian theology scholar who claimed she doesn’t want to be “saved” by anyone at all…then she added in a more playful voice that maybe a woman in a white horse could save her. I always felt a bit uncomfortable with the gender dynamics and implication of power in the idea of being “saved” so this idea stayed with me) even then there is a problem because Jairus’ daughter is both underage and too unconscious to agree to be in the game.

So I am uncomfortable with the gender and power discourses I can take out of here. I am uncomfortable with queerying the gender and turning the “saving” into erotic play. I know the function of the bible isn’t to make me feel cosy, but this is too uncomfortable. What if I latch onto the word “daughter”? If I see Jesus’ relationship to the two women as parental, then I am still a bit troubled by “his” gender (in terms of theirs), but I can see him in a feminised role, similar to my role as a mother and a preschool teacher constantly getting interrupted and called for and jostled and grabbed at. And now immediately (to borrow Mark’s hyper-activity) I am drawn into the text as Jesus (very appropriate in terms of what Paul says about Jesus’ action becoming the model for our action).

And if I am called to be Jesus, not called to be saved by Jesus then I don’t need to unpack the gender roles so much but just follow Mark’s immediacy (see how many times Mark uses “immediately or actions rapidly following and interrupting each other) and get on with the job. Jesus has too much to do, he is called from every side and his never shrinking to-do list is complicated by immediacies where even his cloak is pulled at. The temptation must be to ignore the interruption and continue, or to growl at the woman who drained something from the already stretched Jesus. He stops, publically notes and affirms her action and then calmly continues onto the next healing. The next healing is occurring in the home of already privileged people and he asks for secrecy. I feel I am once more detecting Magnificat movement where the private and marginalised are publically affirmed, and the popular and central are refocused on the domestic (feeding their daughter) instead of given more celebrity status. Jesus here again is concerned with fair balance.

Here finally I run into a real brick wall, because I am neither as energetic as the Markan Jesus, nor as serene in the face of so many people wanting or needing a piece of me. Here the “good news” is more daunting than empowering. Am I really supposed to be constantly poured out for the good of others? Am I really called to act powerfully to address imbalances with a kind and healing word for everyone and anyone? No wonder the guy died in his mid 30s.

This gospel makes me want to be Jonah and throw myself into the belly of a big fish to escape my impossible vocation (but isn’t that pretty much what I have already wasted my life doing?) This gospel makes me cry with grief, guilt and frustration and look for a loophole. Because by myself I AM NOT JESUS. I am not all this. I am not a whole body of Christ within myself. The body of Christ is always and eternally supposed to be community. There is supposed to be a church around me, empowering, supporting and informing my potential for ministry. And there bloody well isn’t!

But before I let anger, guilt and grief turn into self-pity and self-pity hurl me back into the endless abyss of depression let me try to refocus myself on the cracks in the cement of the patriarchal women-hating (no that is not too strong an expression) church. I am not the only “other”, there are other “others” with their vocations twisted or wasted (I moved a church that technically ordains women but like many others found the language and practice still oppressively patriarchal). Some have learned to survive/thrive and nurture others, to channel away the toxins of their own feelings of betrayal and bitterness- referring to the truth of their pain only in ways that heal the “others” like me, who have failed to overcome their sense of alienation and find a place.

The church has failed me, but God knew that would happen and called me anyway. I do realize that I have failed God. Like David I am caught up in the system that causes my deep grief and I am not an innocent, but like the watchman perhaps there is a shift change coming. There are others who have even less privilege than me, and they must be my focus for fair balance- not myself and my self-pity.  There is still a Jesus who crosses to my side, who tells me to come out of the crowd and touch and be acknowledged and healed, who calls me to sit up and eat, who is the one I must become, not just the one I can be passively saved by.

I have often felt that my vocation and even my faith was dead “why trouble the teacher further”? But Jesus keeps insisting stubbornly that it is only sleeping. How then do I awake?