Earlier this week, Emily Weirenga posted a link-up around the question, “Would you be friends with your younger self?” While not a direct answer, you can read my thoughts below and visit this link to read how others responded. Enjoy! And, what do you think, would you be friends with your younger self?
* * * * *
We had two children at the time, ages two and four, and were
making the difficult and exciting transition to me working part-time. Within a week I would begin as Associate Pastor at our church and we were scrambling to get things lined up and adjusting to the title “pastor” that matched the calling I’d felt for so long.
It was one of those mornings when I was running
late and harried, scrambling in mad circles around the house, watching the day fall apart before it even got started. I was working frantically to get my oldest
ready for preschool, while also searching for the car keys when the phone rang.
Seeing it was the babysitter, I quickly grabbed the phone. I had called her the day
before, explaining that I would be preaching the following Sunday and wondering
whether she could free me up for a few hours of study and preparation. She said she’d have to get back to me and I
was eager to hear her response.
To my surprise, she asked if she could stop by to
talk for a few minutes. I explained that
we’d be leaving soon, but that it was fine if she could get there quickly. It was a strange request and
even in the midst of the hectic morning rush, as I continued to plow through
drawers and coat-pockets, searching, I felt a shadowy anxiety
that had to do with more than missing keys.
She appeared at the screen door right around the same time I
resigned myself to having to walk, or rather run, my daughter to
preschool. She walked in to the middle
of our chaotic morning and stood there at the threshold of our home, tall and
willowy, with her long hair that hung down below her waist.
I don’t remember word for word what she said, but as we
stood face to face in my living-room, the sunlight streaming in and the
children swirling at my feet, she said she hadn’t wanted to tell me what she
had to say over the phone. The fact was that while she really
enjoyed my kids, indeed, loved caring for them, she wouldn’t be able to babysit
for me while I was preparing to preach because she didn’t believe in women
preaching. She would be happy to babysit
other times, but didn’t want to support this activity that she disapproved.
I stood facing her directly and tears poured down
unbidden as she spoke. I felt, of
course, the rise of anger, the “how dare she come into my own house and speak
to me this way,” but beyond that, empty and exasperated as I already was, I
felt clear and simple pain. It was
as though her words were a lance that pierced an old and heavy wound.
I don’t know what she expected, maybe that I would scream
and shout or throw her out and, if I’d had my wits about me, a mighty slap
across the face would’ve been a wonderfully dramatic if not also regretful choice. But I stood there
and took it because even in the midst of the pain, I saw myself in her.
I saw the young woman who memorized entire books of the
bible word for word throughout high school, the one who spent her weekends
traveling with a bible quizzing team, the one who explained to a feminist
friend how the seemingly biblical subordination of women was ok.
I saw the courage and conviction that comes so easily with
black-and-white thinking, with the clarity and purity of youth and I felt
compassion for her, even as I stood reeling from her words. It was as though my own self stood there in
the doorway, speaking from across the years and, in a strange way, I couldn’t help but love her
* * * * *
There’s more to the story, of course, like how that
confrontation resulted in an important conversation with my Dad around me being
a woman who would soon be a pastor. Or
how the piercing of that wound was a blessing in disguise that awakened me to
the reality that I would be working in a very conservative community; this pushed
me to have a clarifying conversation with my soon to be employer while also
awakening me to my own need for healing.
I continued to hire her as a babysitter when I was not
involved in “illicit activities,” trying, I guess, to be the bigger person. And she continued to be available (maybe also
trying to be the bigger person?). Having
been caught off guard by her judgment, though, I worried when she came to the
house. I couldn’t help but wonder what
other transgressions I might be making in her eyes – what would she think of
the books I read or the beer in the fridge?
I refused to give in to the temptation, though, to hide these
I was tempted, too, to leave things lying around that might,
somehow, “enlighten her” to my way of thinking and I wondered if she might not harbor
hopes of doing the same. As time went on
I joked with my husband that we were two determined women intent on arm-wrestling each other into our own little definition of the Kingdom of God.
* * * * *
There will always be the need for young women like her, women who stand
tall and straight with such clarity and conviction, if only for the way they
lance the boil of old hurts, bringing to the surface yet again the fear and pain of coming
Time has a way of changing and deepening conviction, time
and pain and the relentless and fierce call of God. For this change in me, I am grateful, and for the seed of
compassion that allowed me to see my younger self, again, with love.