On the days when I feel “nobody understands” I remind myself of one of my favorite books about spiritual journeys, Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd. This book reminds me of what I loved about seminary – the imaginative and “out of the box” experiences of God. In the six years of my ordained ministry serving three different calls, I’ve had glimpses of those things.
My first call had a Caribbean liturgy and Blues liturgy as well as used expansive language for God, to some degree. In my second call, since Lent aligned with Black History month, I was able to write a midweek Lenten service lifting up the voices of African-American theologians and sing spirituals. In my current call, we have seven worship services on a weekend, as divergent as you can imagine seven worship services can be. There are parts of a service that might speak to my soul, but as a whole, in the words of Bono, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” I like the flow of Lutheran liturgy which in one sense makes me “traditional” but my college years were spent singing in a Black Gospel choir which had more “umpf” than say, oh your “traditional” Lutheran service. So, I really can’t check off which worship box might want to label me.
Dance of the Dissident Daughter is not about labels or fitting into boxes. It’s not about cramming one’s toes into the highest heel to look cute, or pretending to be anything spiritually for someone else. Instead, it is about one Baptist minister’s wife’s journey from a place of rigid theology and worship to a more expansive view of God, a God that leaped from the pages of the Bible into the innermost sanctum of her heart… enter the picture… the Feminine Divine.
I usually underline books with whatever weapon of ink is near by…pen, highlighter, marker, crayon you name it, but as I searched through Dance of the Dissident Daughter to find a quote to give a flavor of Kidd’s thoughts, there wasn’t one mark or one neon sentence jumping off the page pointing me in the right direction. For someone who can no more breathe without first exhaling, than not underline while reading a book, I was reminded that the whole book was so good I couldn’t underline! The whole book would have been glowing an obnoxious yellow. Nonetheless, this line from page 121 gives a sliver of what I am talking about:
The way to find your thread again is to be still and remember who you are, to listen to your heart, your inner wisdom, as deeply as you can and then give yourself permission to follow it. If you can’t give yourself this permission, then find someone who can. Everybody should have at least one permission giver in her life. Betty and I have been daring one another into being for years now.
When I’m full to overflowing with the wonders of the church community, all the ministry that goes on behind the scenes, the meals shared, the windows cleaned, the noses wiped, the bulletins folded, there is a part of me that celebrates the Feminine Divine. It would leave me empty to be without the Feminine Divine in my beloved church community. The Divine Feminine can no more be dislocated from each other than the cross from atonement or water from baptism. I need God to be more than my “Father in Heaven.” Every time I slip into the feeling that “others are right” and I’m wasting my time rewording all the “his” and “him” references in the weekly psalm, I remember Kidd’s words about listening to my heart, my inner wisdom and giving myself permission to follow where God is leading. After all, if expansive language for God so speaks to my soul, than there is some other woman, man, girl or boy who is hungry for a broader view of God.
Kidd isn’t necessarily calling us to a “ministry of irritation,” but if something is missing in worship, in your spiritual life, she calls us to pay attention to what is irritating us. Kidd invites us deeper, past the church calling and the personal relationship with Jesus Christ to let “Big Wisdom” speak her heart to your heart. Kidd recognizes that everyone’s journey is different, but I have a hard time believing that being open to the journey wouldn’t lead anyone of any age or race or culture or gender to see God in all the ways God makes her/himself known to us.