Convergence and Direction
Life’s been crazy around here recently, so I am just now getting the chance to sit down and reflect on what went on at Convergence. It was great to go be a part of a gathering of Christian women leaders and hear the stories of how they have all committed their lives to serving God and others. There was a lot of pain there as many of the women still face hatred and oppression just for being a woman faithfully serving God, but there was also a lot of hope and encouragement. In some ways I felt a bit out of place there since at the moment I feel rather directionless in my life, but the environment was a good one to help me start processing some of those questions about direction.
What really stood out to me was the theme of the weekend as represented on the objects placed on each of our tables. Each table had an old object on it (light fixture, shoe, cigar box…) that had been re-purposed to grow plants. So each of these old unexpected objects had new life emerging out of it, and we were asked to meditate on the objects at our table and share what they were saying to us. The thing is, is that when I looked at the objects at my table, I didn’t see life there. There were plants there, but my first thought was that this life isn’t sustainable – these plants could not survive for very long. Flowers clinging to life amidst rocks placed in an old potato ricer or felt hat will soon wither and die. The water will drain out too quickly and there are no nutrients to feed the plant. They looked pretty, even quirky and appealing, but there is no way life could survive in these objects. While others shared about their call to cultivate life in unexpected places or even to follow a call to somewhere they never thought they would go (and in truth the objects at other tables looked far more sustainable), all I could think of was that these representations of life could never survive.
Then in our time of worship, we sang these words – “Why do I stay where it feels safe when you keep calling me to come out?” I realize that I do this all the time. I like to stay where it feels safe – or at least where it feels known and I assume it is safe – but these places don’t always help me grow. They look like pretty places to be planted, but in truth they are not environments that nurture life. The death might be slow, but the environment is hostile nonetheless.
But of course I stay. I feel like I am running if I leave. Or that I am selfish to consider what is healthy for me. Or that I just need to strengthen myself through adversity. Or that relationships are more important than fighting for what I need to survive. The environments might be outright abusive – telling me that as a woman my only worth lies in my service to my husband and kids, telling me that I should not be writing (and therefore teaching men), or telling me that by being intelligent and serving God I must hate God and the Bible and am in need of discipline. Other environments are more subtle – like those who constantly debate around me if as a woman I am created in God’s image or if I am in sin for following God’s call in my life. The look of surprise on someone’s face when I tell them I have served as a pastor or that I’m considering going to seminary. The assumption that I will take care of food and hospitality and not the content at an event. Or even being in a church where the voice of women is never heard no matter how theoretically supportive it is of women in ministry. And I struggle wondering if I am called to be a light and voice into these places or if they are slowly sapping the life out of me?
So Convergence really made me take a step back and ask these hard questions. Am I in a healthy place to cultivate life? Can I grow good things where I am at, or am I just struggling to survive? What direction should I be heading in order to be faithful to the gifts and calling God has given me? I know it’s not really safe to stay somewhere just because it is known if it is not a life-sustaining environment, so I am seeking direction (which is far easier said than done). It’s hard, but I am grateful for the push at Convergence to really work through these questions and start trying to get to a more healthy place.