A week or so ago, I was having a really, horribly, no-good, terrible d̶a̶y̶ week (or two). Pressure was mounting at school, and some issues were doing their best to hammer me to the floor.
Everyone in my program was equally full-up with exams, papers, personal issues. There was almost no place to turn, and my heart was breaking from words others had spoken.
I put my head down, called a couple of friends, prayed - even at 3am when I was tossing and turning with words pummeling my thoughts - even at 9am when I had to walk back into that building, and try to be fine with the damage.
And here's how God works.
A fruit bouquet showed up at my door. Very, very, very unexpectedly. It was from one of the friends I called. And I remember thinking - it's not just that she supports me. But: She's On My Side.
But you can think, easily if you're a melancholic as I am, that someone who is a friend is more likely to offer that kind of love, because you guys are in it together. (And I am deeply grateful to have her in it together with me!)
But last weekend, I read a paper at the Siena Symposium at St. Thomas in Minneapolis, MN. Over the weekend I stayed at the DoubleTree, and ate breakfast both days in the restaurant there at their buffet. On Saturday, there was a bubbly young woman named E who brought me tea. But she came back to the table to chat, asked me what I was doing in town, seemed really interested when I explained the conference.
She was replaced ten minutes later when a middle aged woman named S working there also came by to check on me, and asked about my plans. When I said I was speaking at a conference called "Woman as Prophet and Servant of Truth" she stopped in her tracks. Wait! Let me get paper, she said and ran off. Soon she was back, sitting at the table with me, asking me to repeat the title, asking me more…. She explained she had run a gathering of women at her church, and that she felt the Spirit telling her something in my words. So I continued to share about my paper, just a bit - about the goodness of the body, and the way in which women speak with and for God, as the OT prophets like Deborah and Miriam. And then she said to me that God had "impregnated" her with the idea for her women's gathering, and it took five years to be born. I couldn't help but smile. Her words were spoken as only a woman of experience could have spoken them. Her analogy of her body and God's work was real. I felt like she gave me courage to get through the nerves of giving that paper on the Theology of the Body, and she said she would pray for me, and thanked me for sharing, saying: I knew there was something special about you.
Next morning, I was back. E was there with tea again. She remembered me, and asked how the paper presentation had gone. After I told her it was well received, I explained that it would need more work because I hoped to do more with it. She told me with a smile: you can do it. I have confidence in you.
On Monday I was back to wrestling with the voices lingering from the two weeks prior, and I was at Panera. While I was having a conversation with someone, I got choked up, just at the moment one of the workers, M, came to clear off plates. She came back ten minutes later, put her hand on my shoulder, and handed me an obnoxiously pink-iced flower cookie. You look like you're having a rough day, she said, and cookies always make that better.
In just two conversations a couple weeks ago, I was wounded and distraught. I felt isolated at best and rejected at worst. I have a soft heart and with much prayer, I realized the speakers didn't even know me well enough to think about that.
But God got me into this mess, as I remind him frequently, and I was amazed at the ways in which God still let me know He is sending me women to share their feminine genius with me, even as I continue to strive to find and share my own. M and S and E were beacons of God's love to me. They didn't know me, but they were able to love me. They hadn't read a paper I've written or heard a class I've taught or watched how hard I study. But they supported me, and encouraged me, and were On My Side as women.
And for the other women who have listened to my calls, invited me to come chill out, sent me fruit (my sister has also done this more than once for me: cookies are great but chocolate covered fruit is better) THANK YOU for being not just supportive, but On My Side.
John Paul II tells us that women have a unique capacity for "seeing" the person with her heart. I affirm this. My experience in just a few days was that women who were total strangers saw me with their hearts, and more than that, acted. My dear sister friends carry me in their hearts as well, and I do the same. Women need each other in this way especially, and it is through the love I have experienced from these women that I can forgive the others…