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The Strengths of Staying...the new Story?

For the last ten years or so, I have understood myself as a woman betrayed.

Most intimately, a woman unknowingly complicit in her own silencing, her own betrayal, but no less true: a woman betrayed by the church within which she stands and serves, by the academy still wed unconsciously to the sacred grove of trees out of which it sprung, by outdated presumptions of marriage, by a family ethos resistant to or refusing of the feminine. Yet I have stayed.

Sometimes just still enough for the ruptures to simply recede, leaving things untenable to me in tact but no longer actively wounding of me. Sometimes actively re-creating my life, co-creating larger spaces for the men and women in my life to live, love, and learn together.

Why have I stayed? I’m sure I don’t really know…yet. But I can imagine…because I am also a woman curious, a woman tenacious, a woman loved, a woman amused, a woman loving, a woman embodied, a woman with heart, a woman able to forbear, heal, and teach. A woman found by other women who helped me stay in my body, in my life, in my profession, in my Life. I am a woman who stays.

What would it mean to move out of the story of betrayal and into a new story in the strengths of that staying? A story that honored the excruciating and unjust realities of this experience while weaving a stronger thread of hope, possibility, forgiveness, compassion?

Companionable voices keep finding me, connected to this re-storying. A couple months ago, it was an essay by Cheryl Bridges Johns, “Grieving, Brooding, Transforming.” This week, it was a midrashic text by Alicia Ostriker, The Nakedness of the Fathers. Both left me with the texts closed on my lap, tears falling down my cheeks, grieving the deep belly sadness of a woman betrayed by all the sacred she has held dear.

Betrayed yet not released, apparently.

Perhaps it's the Hound of Heaven.

Perhaps simply an insatiable Heart to imagine life could be different for more of us.

Something about Ostriker’s text keeps goading me, soothing me. How can a presumably secularized Jewish woman, teaching English at Rutger’s University, “enter the tents/texts” of Torah? What compelled her to “the train which she could then not get off of”?

Is it a seed of hope within me, that this raging storyline could become something else life-giving? Is it recognizing another woman who somehow found the courage to stay within that which she could not leave, even if she wanted to? A woman who stayed, even though she didn’t know why?

For now, I’ll leave with her beginnings, training wheels for me somehow, in my Christianity:

I am and am not a Jew. … To deny my Judaism would be like denying the gift of life, the reality of sorrow, the pleasures of learning and teaching. … But I’m not a Jew, I can’t be a Jew, because Judaism repels me as a woman.

Yet she entered…

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