I believed every- single- word. I lay in my bunk at camp in the hot, heavy, humid midsummer of Tennessee, fans whirring in the cabins ages old with dust, names of campers before me scratched into the walls for posterity. While other girls slept and dreamed about boys, I held my flashlight to the text and memorized the words of the Bible to win the contest, acquire the points, to be the best of the Christians that week.
Did I like boys—sure, in fact it was at youth camp that I had my first kiss, first heartbreak, attended my first “couple’s event” where I sat looking longingly at the other girls paired off with pimply boys all shorter than us. All of it, at camp out in those woods down by the river. But what I really loved, what I really wanted, as far back as I can remember, was knowledge.
Even as a hormone raging adolescent I was heady with the idea that I could know more than the other campers, that I could recall information like some sort of super power that I could apply a given scripture as an answer to anyone’s question at any given time. I believed my mastery of Scripture in the King’s English made me a star in the eyes of God, gave me status as good, worthy, and even, better than. But I was young, mind and body not yet fully formed, faith un-tested, and “if/then” systems I’d come to believe from the holy writ still strong in me like so much Geometry.
It was before all of the losses before life had taken enormous chunks out of my armor, before the formulae I had constructed had fallen apart and failed to bear me up in the hospital emergency rooms, before the phone call in the night destroyed everything bright and beautiful, before cold February snow beside the grave, the grave, the grave. That was before the God I had constructed-- the one I could lead around with a rope, the one who would go where I led and do my bidding according to my Christmas list prayers-- failed me, left me cold and broken and hopelessly lost.
It was before I learned this text was wild and free, mysterious and charged with the super natural, before I knew the people who wrote it were just like you and me. This was long before I knew there would be things I could not know and trees in the garden of which I could not eat and a path, a call into the darkness from which I wanted to run. It was before I knew the leading of the Spirit or the power of Jesus present in suffering—back when I thought this old book was meant for me to study and conquer and apply like so many handbook instructions.
So I studied the words, read them in their original language, eyed yellowed, fragile fragment’s through looking glass and wept before scrolls preserved under the light. And I bowed, humbled and low in reverence for what is long old and true, for what is better and beyond me.
“I believe I will see the goodness of God in the land of the living” my spirit cried, those verses thrumming in my heart, maybe they were only words once, only content before but they were deep in me and came back in the midnight hour while I heard the drip of the machines, the beep and hum of the oxygen and my lips quivered like Hannah’s in the tabernacle. I cried out not in faith but in desperation, and then I knew. The words did not need me, it was I who needed them—her-- Hokmah, Sophia, the wisdom of God the feminine pre existent wisdom of God who came to this world in the flesh of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus who had sweat blood at his own hour of need, who had cried and languished and begged God to remove the cup that sat before him and bid him drink, Jesus who walked on for love.
Now I repent, I confess, I proclaim, I testify. I will not try to tame it, I will not try to possess it, I will not worship the words, but the one who gave them to me through the fallen, blood soaked hands of the busted up humans whose stories are woven together across the centuries by the Spirit’s own power to remind me that I am not alone and I am in and through and at the end of it all called to love.