“My Virgen de Guadalupe is not the mother of God. She is God. She is a face for a god without a face, an indigena for a god without ethnicity, a female deity for a god who is genderless, but I also understand that for her to approach me, for me to finally open the door and accept her, she had to be a woman like me.”
So this past week and a half I’ve been at Orientation for my new fellowship, Life Together. I thought this was a good time to start my blog and I’m embarking on a emotional, spiritual, intellectual journey this coming year with the Episcopal Service Corp and working with the Massachusetts Senior Action Council. The three core tenant of this program is the prophetic, the contemplative, and the communal.
In essence, the prophetic is about reimagining the world we currently live in, with its oppressive structures and dreaming of another way of being with love. The contemplative has to do with the cultivation of that internal (r)evolution that must be the foundation and starting point of any substantial and transformative changes in the world around us. The communal is about how all of this is only possible when we are living and thinking in community, supporting each other and collectively loving each other in ways that build towards a better shared reality. I wanted to start this blog as a way to accompany all three. To dream about a different world, to think deeply about what that means for me on the most personal level, and to share it with a community who I trust to be along with me on this journey.
I was particularly struck by that quote by Sandra Cisneros that I heard during orientation I’ve been thinking about the idea that God is a woman like me a lot these past few days. I think it is going to one of the deepest questions I’m going to have regarding my own faith this coming year and I’m excited to continue exploring that idea. As I began taking seeing beyond the Christianity of simple obedience, often reading authors like C.S. Lewis, Walter Brueggemann, and Patrick Cheng, I began glimpsing into another way of using the Bible and Christianity as a lens through which to view my own work of social justice and my belief that the only revolution that is truly a non-violent and healing will be one arising out of communities all growing together in love. But as much as my intellectual mind has begun to embrace a queer, brown, socialist Jesus, I realized as I was praying this past week that when I close my eyes, I still imagine God as an old white man. A friend of mine pointed out that this just shows how limited our imaginations are when it comes to the Divine. How we’ve been disciplined to put something so beautiful and expansive into the very oppressive structures that spirituality and faith is actually suppose to help us dream outside of.
Lately, I’ve also been reading Mujerista Theology by Ada María Isasi-Díaz. I’ve resonated deeply with her exploration of what it means to feel like a transplant in this country. How as a “foreigner in an alien land, [she] has not inherited a garden from [her] mother but rather a bunch of cuttings. Beautiful but rootless flowering plants” that is seen in this country as either “weeks or exotica…either plucked up and treated as a rarity” but never really accepted as “part of the common garden of the dominant USA culture.” She goes on to describe the most beautiful and most challenging parts of her inheritance, and the struggle of maintaining a culture heritage as an immigrant. One of the most beautiful flowers that she inherited from her mother is the understanding “la vida es la lucha–the struggle is life.” She notes that what her mother prays for is not for an easy life but rather “to have the health and strength to struggle” that “as long as we have what we need to struggle in life, we need to ask for nothing else.” It made me think a lot of my own relationship with my mother, what she has taught me, the beautiful lessons I’ve learned from her and how I can take that which I love while leaving behind the pain.
In the next chapter, Ada also talks about how she has never felt a deep connection with self sacrificial prayer and finds herself closest to God when she is protesting for justice. How the word “spirituality” has often been a word used to make certain types of holiness more elevated than others, often to exclude poor women of color. She finds herself as a “person with a deep relationship with the divine, a relationship that finds expression in walking picket lines more than kneeling, in being in solidarity with the poor and the oppressed more than in fasting and mortifying the flesh, in striving to be passionately involved with others more than in being detached, in attempting to be faithful to who I am and what I believe God wants of me more than in following prescription for holiness that require me to negate myself.”
When I read that I tried to close my eyes and imagine a God like that. The kind of God that needs not fear to enter our hearts. A love that needs not gold to shimmer in our churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, and wherever else her song might sing most sweetly–in the woods, the oceans, our markets, our bedrooms, our hearts. I thought, if we can imagine a God like that, than she need not our worship which is loud, which is a performance for everyone but her. That she must crave a love that is service in its greatest sense, not in trying to save others but in liberating our own hearts to sing more sweetly for her. A song that is meant to pour more sweetness into the world and in ourselves which is her own body.
A God like that, well that could be a woman like me.
I don’t know if I’m fully there yet, I think I still have so much anger and heartbreak in me. I think that even if a love like that exists, I’m still not use to imaging that was made for me. Part of that comes from this society we live in which has taught me ideals of worth I have only just begun unpacking. Much of it also comes from the way I was raised, with a great deal of love but not so much compassion. The love I received was a fierce love, one born out of survival that masked itself at times as thriving and other times as deep failure.
As I’m starting work tomorrow, I hope to bring these questions with me and see how she speaks through the work I’m about to embark on.