“He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’”
From a very young age I have had this morbid curiosity with death. As a child I would ask to go to the park via the cemetery so that I could read the inscription on the graves. As a teenager I would spend hours wandering around grave yards thinking of the previous lives of the residents there. You’re probably thinking that it is therefore no surprise that I am now a Christian but this wasn’t thinking about heaven or an afterlife, this was and is the fascination of what people will say about me once I’m no longer here. How will people describe me?
Over the years I’ve attended more than my fair share of funerals, and often, quite bizarrely, funerals of people I don’t even know. I have my reasons! I haven’t really been hanging around the crematorium and gate crashing funerals. I’m not that weird. But each time it makes me consider my own, what I want and what I hate, and each time I look at my own life and wonder what people will say. You see, the problem with these things is that normally, the people who give the eulogy are the ones who know you best. Scary! They could say anything….and you can’t stand up and stop them! And I try and think what I would like them to say, I start with the ‘Jennie was amazingly patient and loving, always cheerful and helpful and a true credit to God.’ Then reality kicks in and I realise that actually I’d just be pleased if they go ‘Jennie was OK, she did the best she could’, to be frank anything more than ‘Thank God the miserable bugger has gone’ is considered a bonus.
Within my exploration of ordination there have been many references and reports written about me. Often it can be uncomfortable to read about yourself but sometimes, just sometimes, it’s quite nice. But my latest report starts with this line, ‘Jennie(40) is a single parent.’ I was less than pleased, OK I was mad, very mad, possibly unreasonably so. Did I rant by text and phone that night? Oh yes. Did I stomp around and slam my pots around over breakfast the next day? Yes, I did that too. And I learnt that people split into two groups; those that really couldn’t see the problem, and those that immediately exclaim ‘That’s outrageous!’ I wonder which group you fit in to..
So why was I angry? Well I am so much more than my marital status, or rather, lack of it.. And anyway, why should it matter? When Peter answered Jesus he didn’t say, ‘Oh they know you as the thirty something that’s not married. They think you must have commitment issues or be gay.’ did he? Of course not, and yet somehow this is the most important aspect of me apparently. But, rightly or wrongly, my marital status is perceived negatively by a substantial chunk of society and particularly within the church, therefore, this statement will have consequences
So I was pulled up short by a wise, and fairly brave, friend who said, ‘But Jennie this is how you describe yourself.’ Surely not! That couldn’t be true! Was I really that negative about myself? Grudgingly I had to admit that they were right. I don’t know when it started, but I had started to refer to myself in these terms. But no longer, this needs to stop! That night I remembered the following quote by Marianne Williamson and, when I start to slip, I continue to tell myself this…
‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone.
And as we let our light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.’