Pen Pals and Hope

So I left my last blog post with a quandary, searching for a new fun topic I’d reflect on for next time. Of course now that I’m at the “next time,” I’ve strayed from those three options and I’ve wandered into a different vein of thinking that has hit close to home this evening. It has to do with pen pals and hope.

This whole business about finishing a new fancy shiny graduate degree is exciting. But it’s also terrifying – because, as you’re fresh from growing pains and armored with this new set of ideas and sense of smartness, you’re called to not just think but to do all of these wonderful things that you’ve written hundreds and possibly thousands of pages about.

I breathe theology. I eat theology for breakfast. I think about theology in Zumba class as I listen to lyrics about empowerment, love and lifting each other up (to a very zesty, infectious salsa beat I might add). So it’s no surprise that my Master of Arts is in systematic theology, and I loved every minute (almost every minute) of my theology classes at PLU and Luther Seminary.

One theological topic in one of these classes stood out above the rest, in my last two theology classes at Luther, taught by Dr. Lois Malcolm. The idea is that as a Lutheran, I share in Christ’s death, life, baptism, waking, sleeping, and ultimately Christ’s power and authority over structures of oppression, sin, death and the devil. We are co-heirs in Christ’s authority (1st Corinthians 3:21-23). We can have hope for a new day, knowing Christ conquered sin and death so that we might not live in depression, anxiety, broken, abusive relationships, terror, but that we might live into new life of Christ where there is reconciliation, where there is liberation, where there is hope. Christ is not only present in our most vulnerable and anxiety-ridden moments that remind us of our mortality and humanity. Christ is saving through Christ’s transformative liberating of all people, all creeds, and all nations (Joel 2:28-29, 2nd Cor. 5:17-21).

Perhaps it wasn’t the theological idea of “sharing in Christ’s power and authority” that struck me the most. Perhaps it was the fact that it was Dr. Malcolm, a female in a male-dominated profession, like me, a woman, who was teaching from her heart and soul about power. This somehow made her embody power – where so often men have been in her shoes, as professors, teachers, preachers, teaching about power. Men teaching about Christ’s power. That doesn’t really phase me. But to hear a woman so passionately speaking about the power of Christ that we share in as step into life with Christ – that is something that is unique, counter-cultural, and powerful.

It’s amazing how quickly I forget this (that was May). Fast-forward 6 months. After hearing so many “no”s in my call sales job, I was feeling like the most unqualified, inexperienced person ever in the history of humanity to sell advertising space in a burgeoning, growing, at-the-front-of-a-movement magazine for women in ministry leadership. Sometimes I feel I have no authority or power to hold my own and help people see, whom I’ve never met, that we share a vision: serving, supporting and resourcing women in leadership makes a difference to the women themselves, the communities they serve, and the world at large. I love sharing this vision with people. I can’t tell you how much life it gives me when I’m given a shot to explain to someone whose probably scrambling to get through their own day, that the two of us doing ministry together will strengthen our influence on the world whether we’re selling robes and vestments or providing low-income counseling/leadership services to clergy who work at 50-60 hour work week.

Amidst this internal struggle, I get a letter in the mail from my pen pal, Amanda, who is far, far away as a pastoral intern at a very, very lucky church. She thanked me for my encouragement in my last letter as I told her what a fabulous sermon she wrote on vocation that I LOVED to pieces. She said she appreciated my reiteration that she’s a child of God who is capable and lovable, and I told her that Christ’s new life was in her just shining on through her rockstar ministry. In her letter today, she wrote to me that she appreciated the support, and she wrote “I guess this gospel thing really does have power.”

Sure, pen pals might be most popular among middle schoolers, but I think they’re awesome among post-graduate students. It’s because of Amanda’s words that I felt like I have hope that tomorrow will be better. I hope that Christ will offer me new life tomorrow. Not in a ‘gosh that would be awful, I sure hope thing’s will be better’ but hope, as in the kind of hope that only faith in an ultimate trust can bring. I am so thankful for my pen pal and how she reminds me that I share in Christ’s authority and power, as I step into new life in Christ, with humility and with courage. But above all, in hope.

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