As my previous post explained, the Frau and I made a move recently, and I have been "treasure hunting" as part of the downsizing process. I have been amazed at some of what I have uncovered - my old locker combination from high school - really? whatever for? Straight to the trash can. Then again, I have been lucky to uncover some real finds.
When I first moved back to the Kansas City area twelve years ago, I joined an Episcopal church. It was a bitter pill for my Baptist minister father to swallow, but he handled it with a great deal of grace. In the throes of becoming acquainted with my new religious affiliation, and persuaded by some of the women in the church choir, I did something that goes against everything I have ever believed. Something that would shock anyone who knows me. I look back on it now and still can't believe I did it.
I went to a weekend Women's Retreat.
There. I said it.
But after all, they were Episcopalian, so there was wine. And episodes of the Vicar of Dibley. And I'd have my own room. So . . . How bad could it be?
It was actually not bad at all. I credit the wine and single room with much of that.
One of the activities we participated in was to reflect on a woman who had influenced our life - our spiritual life - in a most significant way. Everyone got a colored index card with a cute little floral sticker shaped like a heart (the sticker almost ruined it for me) with instructions to write down their reflection and plan to share it later. We had some time to ourselves between writing and sharing, and I went back to my single room and started thinking through the women who had influenced me.
I had completely forgotten about this until we started packing and moving. But I found my little blue index card, sticker still intact in the top left corner, in a drawer somewhere and reading it again twelve years later, I was glad that I went to the retreat, and that I saved the card.
When I think of the women who have influenced my life in the most significant way, I am prompted to realize that God not only shapes us by our contact with spiritual giants, but also by our encounters with searching souls. One of the most influential women in my life was a high school English teacher. She was a fascinating and eclectic enigma - German born, she spoke beautiful English with a British accent, was well read, an avid tennis player, and loved music - from Debussy to Hindu chants to Neil Diamond. She introduced me to a world of books I had not hitherto encountered - from Norwegian esoterics to Egyptian and Sumerian mythology to classic science fiction, and everything in the gaps. She explained to me the concept of the Renaissance man, and modeled the Renaissance woman. The greatest gift she gave to me, however, was the opportunity to discuss my faith in true intellectual dialogue. She was searching - and we had many discussions about the dichotomy between my view of a loving, forgiving God - which she admired - as opposed to her perspective of a vengeful, wrathful God, which was the only one she had every known and couldn't quite release. She allowed this 16/17 year old to meet her on an equal plane in these dialogues - and sometimes trade roles and become the teacher. And being able to wrestle with WHY I felt the way I did about God so that I could dialogue with a mentor whose intellect I so respected, was truly one of the greatest spiritual growth experiences of my life.