Dear Henri, I May Have Lost The Trail — Week 3

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"Deadfall"_Taken after snowshoeing through the woods on my parents' land.

Dear Henri,

I think I've lost your trail.

Looking out across the wilderness, I'm pretty sure I can see where you might have gone and I'm almost certain I know where I am. But standing in this one particular spot, I can't see my way across the deadfall. 

Especially in showshoes.

It's high winter. Daylight only lasts for so long up here. To take my snowshoes off would mean sinking into 2 or maybe even 3 feet of heavy wet snow. The weather's been unseasonably warm these past few days, and while it makes treks into the woods glorious… it's also dangerous. I've already fallen twice. The snow makes for a nice landing, but one wrong turn of the leg in these snowshoes could mean disaster.

Look at all of that! It's beautiful!

Did you make that?

Or were those dead trees and fallen logs there when you passed on through?

I can see the evergreens on the other side of the frozen marsh — I know there's life beyond, but…

… how did you get there?

I'm standing here trying to figure out a way to haul one leg after the other over tumbled trees and through rotten snow. I'm not panicked. As I said, January has been curiously warm for Alberta and I'm out here only in a fleece sweater, enjoying the winter sun on my skin. I'm not even wearing mittens.

Just where did you go?

Speaking of which, what were your Impossible Places? How did you pass through them?

"No one person can fulfill all your needs. But the community can truly hold you. The community can let you experience the fact that, beyond your anguish, there are human hands that hold you and show you God's faithful love." (Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love, p.07)

I seem to have a lot of Impossible Places. Maybe they've only become Impossible because I, myself, have made them Impassable. 

You would probably stand in applause, resoundingly agreeing with me that loneliness is an Impossible Place. This week echoed that again and again in various forms. But one that disturbed me was the accusation that I'm alone because I'm such a "ball-buster". I hate men (apparently), and I don't have a husband because I rag on guys a heck of a lot. I play the "victim of oppression" by blaming guys or I don't realize that women are just as much sinners as men.

Yaddy-yaddy-yadda.

Kind of a hit beneath the belt, don't you think? Sure, I call out misogyny and understand more and more that our entire cultural systems are based on white male privilege and power. The church has succumbed to this systemic oppression — even praised it.

But I don't think me calling out oppressive injustice is the reason I'm single.

"And that's how many of us feel about the segregation of women into one slot: it's just not true for everyone. We're not all in the same season of life, we haven't all made the same choices, we don't have the same life experiences and backgrounds, and we don't have the same priorities and callings or hobbies. We've been grouped together by folk wisdom and our common anatomy [obviously women speaking with women here, Henri], and yet we are all bearers of the image of God as women. So now what?" (Bessey, Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible's View of Women, p.127)

What was called out to me rather pointedly was that women were created second and are to submit to men who, in the Genesis account, were created first. But when I call out male privilege or misogyny, I am apparently forgetting that "Eve sinned too" and is just as doomed to hell without the mercy and grace of God as men are.

So.

I'm second in life because of my anatomy, but equal in a tormenting death?

How does that work?

It doesn't seem to matter that the instigators of such teachings are white North American males, as both devout male and females applaud it. So when women support it, it MUST be true!

ARGH! (pulls hair out)

Further, if I speak out (or females like me speak out), we are labelled "victims" (blaming men for all of our woes), "Jezebels" (imitating the authoritative but hell-bent evil queen of the OT), or "nut-crackers" (you sit on that one, brother).

It's easy to dismiss us by assuming our intentions.

It's easy to dismiss us by mis-using the Bible.

Maybe I do rag on the boys a lot. Maybe I could call out oppression and seek justice and mercy in better ways than I am. But rather than re-shouldering me with another Eve-complex, aren't there better ways to affirm me through this Impossible Place?

My gut says "Yes."

The wind wailing across the frozen wasteland says "Nooooooooooo."

"You have to trust the place that is solid, the place where you can say yes to God's love even when you do not feel it. Right now you feel nothing except emptiness and the lack of strength to choose. But keep saying, "God loves me, and God's love is enough." You have to choose the solid place over and over again and return to it after every failure." (Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love, p.08)

It feels good to be tramping about in the woods on snowshoes today. It's tough slogging, but the sun is warm on my back, my muscles are enjoying the stretch, and the fresh air is invigorating both my lungs and my soul as only evergreen air can do. But when I crested this little ridge and could only see a hint of a trail past an Impossible Place, I faltered.

I failed.

All the loneliness of words spoken, of intentions assumed, of broken community have come down on me. The day is still bright and the air still fragrant and warm. But I haven't been the person I wanted to be in so many places of community, and people haven't been for me who I needed them to be.

I'm not alone because I 'don't know my place'.

God loves me. God loves me. God loves me.

I'm not alone because I haven't submitted to a particular man.

God loves me. God loves me. God loves me.

I'm not alone because I refuse to believe my identity depends on a mythical oppressive 'created order'.

God loves me. God loves me. God loves me.

I think I can see where you've gone, Henri. Turning back might seem like a failure now, but as you say, I need to come back to the solid places. The wilderness might be an Impassable Place right now, but it's not Impossible. So today my solid place will be turning around (carefully) in these snowshoes, retracing my (our) steps, and returning to my parents' home. It's solid enough… warm, filled with the smells of fresh-baked bread, newly turned wood, and drying lavender and eucalyptus.

Maybe that's more than enough for now: to know that when I fail or when community fails me, I always have a place to come home.

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"Taller Than I Am"_Ready to head home after losing the trail.

 

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