Post Author: Pastor Courtney R. Young
This post is the second 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 will end with a blessing for the Heroine at each stage of the journey. In the previous post, we examined the first part of the journey where the Heroine learns to distrust or belittle her own femininity because she fears it means she is weak or bad.
The Heroine’s Journey
Part Two – Identification with the Masculine and Gathering of Allies
The Heroine has shifted away from their feminine self and is now intent on constructing an identity informed by the external “other.” This is most often accomplished by aligning themselves with a father figure and/or by stepping into a traditionally masculine role. Once the Heroine has been established with the mentor or is in the place that will cultivate them, they either gear “up to ‘fight’ an organization/role/group that is limiting [their] life options, or [enter] some masculine/dominant-identity defined sphere” through study, training, making friends, and building alliances.
While attending an arts high school for creative writing my junior year, I received my call to ministry when God hounded me with daydreams about giving sermons and leading Bible studies. So I turned away from my fiction writing and instead committed myself to traveling the long path that would lead me to ordained ministry, a domain of predominantly masculine authority. Since the time I received my call and over the course of almost ten years, I took advantage of any experience that I thought might serve me as a future pastor. During my senior year of high school, I served on a church call committee, attended my first synod assembly, and preached my first sermon. I studied at a Lutheran college, where nearly every class I registered for was with a future congregation in mind. I took four semesters of ancient Greek (the only quasi-prerequisite for seminary). I enrolled in a vocal performance workshop. I studied human sexuality and death, dying, and bereavement. I took courses on the Hebrew Prophets and Reformation history. I studied abroad in Greece and Turkey and visited many of the sites mentioned in the Epistles. While at college, I met the person who would become one of my best friends and one of my primary sources of support when, later, I found myself bewildered.
I graduated in May and, without missing a beat, I continued my studies that September, now enrolled at the largest ELCA seminary in the country. Not only was it close to home and the school where my husband was furthering his education, but I wanted the opportunity to network with people who would, one day, step up to lead my church denominational body. I enrolled in a new and experimental emphasis program aimed at giving pastors in training more adaptive leadership skills. I took classes that addressed how to lead churches in conflict, in redevelopment, and in flux. I studied budgets, church structure, and my own disposition for leadership. I genuinely enjoyed my classmates and established relationships that have enabled me to reach out to different people at different times. I also met the woman who would become my best clergy friend. My class was roughly 50% male and 50% female, and any ordination gap there felt like a resolved issue. Femininity was something that was highlighted as a minor complication in ministry, only very occasionally an asset, and certainly not the detraction it had been in the past.
Let’s turn back to the movies of Frozen, Captain Marvel, and Kung Fu Panda to explore how this second step, identifying with the masculine and gathering allies for the journey, shows up in these narratives. There will be spoilers.
Elsa learns to identify with the masculine while her father prepares her to be the next queen. In this season of her life she builds a close relationship with her parents, but also (mostly off screen) with the household staff, particularly with Kai, the Head of the Royal Household. Kai served as regent (again off screen) during the three years after Elsa’s parents died but before she was of age. Over the course of the song “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?,” the viewer sees Elsa mature into a young woman who values discipline, independence, orderliness, rationality, and self-control.
Carol Danvers aligns herself with the external masculine by enlisting in the military. The viewer sees her struggle her way through boot camp training, but ultimately achieve her goal of becoming a U.S. Air Force pilot. During this time in her life she meets her best friend, Maria, a woman who also trained to be a pilot.
Po enters a masculine arena when he is selected by Master Oogway to be trained in kung fu by Master Shifu, the renowned teacher of the Furious Five. Po struggles to implement Master Shifu’s rigorous training program. His fellow students appreciate his good-natured tenacity in the face of hardship, and they become friends. Master Shifu realizes that he needs to change in order to train Po. Under his modified tutelage, Po is able to learn the art of kung fu and thus receive the training he needs for his journey.
Blessing for the Heroine
May you feel overshadowed by everything there is to learn.
And yet, Child, learn everything you can.
Wear your pencils down to nubs. Drain your pens dry with notes.
Practice until your skin shines with the sweat of your muscles memorizing.
Scout out positions worth defending.
Find your feet as you pass through the discomforts of uncertainty.
Fall asleep with books slumped over your heart.
But, remember, what you will learn is not everything. There is more.
Child, remember to look up from your own learning to notice those nearby.
Invite people into empty seats next to you. Pull up more chairs.
Don’t be afraid to ask for their name again.
Listen to their stories about home.
Gather around tables to exchange eye openers and heart changers.
Share laughter and disappointment and sunblock and pens and books and snacks.
Fall in love with the art of life, side by side.
But, remember, they can’t accompany you through everything.
Child, learn everything you can. Fill up your time.
Because no matter your plan, you’ll find everything rhymes.
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 www.courtneyryoung.com.
Image by: Brandon Young, Exiting my seminary graduation ceremony while wearing my academic regalia.
Used with permission