The Heroine’s Journey, Part Five: The Heroine Awakens to Feelings of Spiritual Aridity

Post Author: Pastor Courtney R. Young

We have reached the halfway point in what will be a series of ten exploring the kinship between the Heroine’s Journey as established by Maureen Murdock, my lived experience of ministry as a female clergy person, and a few familiar fictional characters. Each devotional ends with a blessing for the Heroine at each stage of the journey. In the previous post, we examined the fourth part of the journey where the Heroine is enjoying the fruits of their accomplishments, but also is holding at bay the suspicion that their success is not what it appears. 

The Heroine’s Journey;

Part Five – The Heroine Awakens to Feelings of Spiritual Aridity 

The Heroine admits to themselves that the pursuit or maintenance of success or security as defined by the external other is unsustainable. The success that has been pursued doesn’t seem as worthy as it once did. The Heroine admits that they have sacrificed sacred parts of themselves to secure their role or position, perhaps too much. They can sense that continued health or growth is unlikely in their current situation, but they can’t yet identify a way out or a way through.

Personal Story 

At the beginning of 2019, I felt ready to start looking for a new call. I had learned so much in my four years of ministry on campus. I felt ready for a new setting where I could continue to grow as a pastor. I was prepared to not let past setbacks get under my skin. So what if it had taken me over three years to land a first call? I was different now. I had proven myself. 

By the fall of 2019, getting my fifth year of ministry off the ground, I felt like I was trapped on a Mobius strip of absurd feedback. I had been told that I was “the cream of the crop.” I was so good at preaching that I should teach it. I was “the future of pastoring” and a “nuanced theologian.” I was creative and kind and intelligent and respected, but after eight ministry sites in as many months, I was also, apparently, the type of pastor that you don’t bring home to council. I felt trapped. My thoughts traced the edges of this strip around and around and around looking for a way out. My brain buzzed with effort trying to solve this paradox like a computer trying to crack a password: What is a pastor without a context?

I remember tucking myself into bed one night. If I have ever felt my spirit sigh, it was in that moment. My spirit sighed from deep within my own bowels all the way up to the top of my head: I wished I had a person like me. I longed for a person to walk this with me who was insightful and reasonable, warm and sturdy, who could cut through all the noise and lay out exactly what paths lay before me.

I felt estranged from myself. 

Narrative Example 

In Frozen 2, Elsa feels constrained by her position as queen even though she has earned the trust and respect of her people. As she sings “Into The Unknown,” a duet with the voice of her mother (unbeknownst to Elsa), she confesses that she knows she’s “not where [she’s] meant to be[.]” She also admits that she longs to leave so that she can develop a true intimacy with her powers, which is not possible while she is queen. Elsa knows she is in a place that does not have the capacity to allow her to grow into a whole, realized person, but she doesn’t know how to take the first step to go somewhere else.

In Captain Marvel, during her false mission, Vers gets captured by the enemy, the Skrull. With the help of their memory recall technology, she is able to see that there is indeed more to her than she knows. She isn’t ready to question the Kree just yet. She fights the Skrull and escapes.

Po and the Furious Five in Kung Fu Panda 2 head to Gongmen City to confront the exiled peacock prince, Lord Shen, who had been stealing metal to build cannons and planned to use them to conquer China. Po confronts Shen twice, but is overwhelmed by memories he doesn’t understand. Unsure of his own history and identity, Po loses focus and confidence. Insecure and disoriented, he is unable to thwart Shen.    

Blessing for Heroine on this part of the journey

My dear Heroine, look at you. 

That is quite a predicament you’ve gotten yourself into. A real head-scratching, chin-rubbing, hand-wringing kind of situation.

There’s nothing to be done for it. You can’t rush these things. So grit your teeth and keep going around and around on that track that leads nowhere except back to here.

I promise you: it will come. The thing that will break you, break through.

Your release is coming. 

Though I warn you: at first it will feel more like dying than freedom.

Courtney Young is a bi-vocational Lutheran pastor/stay-at-home mom from Minnesota. She was honored to spend the first part of her career in campus ministry. Currently, she is serving as an interim pastor and writing a book. Connect with her at

Image by: Courtey Young
Used with permission
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