By: Marilee Akland
My liberal arts education haunts me.
Today I went to church. Despite being surrounded by the people I consider my closest friends and spiritual family here in my small southern town, I nevertheless found the service, as is sadly so often the case for me, to be an emotionally painful experience. It was Communion Sunday, and the whole service was structured around this fact. After singing for a while, the pastor gave a talk on 1 Corinthians 11 and the importance of being right with God before partaking of the elements. I spent much of the sermon not being able to relate to the pastor’s view of God. To me, his God sounds angry and scary and manipulative and we better be good and thankful that Jesus stepped in the line of fire. I wondered what I was even doing here in this place with these people who I don’t understand and who don’t understand me. At the same time, I wondered if God will be willing to forgive me for the horribly limited and fractured view of Him that I myself hold. I wanted to cry.
And then it just got worse. The pastor launched into a disclaimer about how he doesn’t get into the whole “men and women’s roles thing” and how he just “believes what the Word says,” and explained that we would be doing Communion in a slightly different way. He wanted the “heads of household” or the “priests of the home” to come up front and get the elements for their families. He specified that this was to be the husband. For single mothers and for single women, we were the priests of the home. Apparently we lose that office when a man sweeps us off our feet.
I reluctantly left my seat and picked up the juice and the cracker before returning to my seat and awkwardly eating and drinking it, praying that God would forgive me for my utter lack of attention to the reason for partaking. In retrospect, I should have just abstained entirely. Any thankfulness for the Cross was lost on me. God, forgive me. In that moment, though, my sorrow was many-fold. First, I was alone. No husband or family for me. And I couldn’t get past the humiliating experience of being a woman and being a “priest” only because there was no man around to take on the responsibility.
You know, I wish so often that I could shut my brain down and accept the simplicity of life the way that those around me do. I wish I wasn’t a crazy liberal feminist; I wish I wasn’t a cynic and a doubter; I wish I hadn’t learned to ask questions and seek answers; I wish I had never gone to college or graduate school. Today, at least, it seemed to me that all college gave me was the inability to accept things at face value.
And yet, God forgive my pride, I have to believe that the God I love and serve is real and living. I may not completely understand Him, I may not view Him correctly. But I have to believe that He is beyond any of our views of Him. I have to believe that I’m not the only one with a limited view of the Almighty.
Some days, it’s only God Himself who keeps me sane.