Last week, I awoke in a cold sweat from a dream. I wasn’t scared. I was furious because in this particular dream I was in Africa going toe-to-toe with a warlord. I wanted to open a hospital. This part of the dream was very detailed in that I knew there was only one hospital in the entire country. It was impossible for most people to travel to that hospital and there was some sort of health epidemic that threatened the lives of children and women. In my dream, I was literally stepping on this guy’s toes. I would stomp on his toe and then insist that he take care of the least of these. Obviously, being a warlord and all, he didn’t budge.
The dream didn’t resolve itself. I don’t know if I ever convinced him or why I was running through a lush wilderness later in the dream. (That certainly couldn’t have been in the region of Africa I have visited.) Most of all, I don’t know why I was there doing this work.
Later that day, I realized that it had something to do with this evolving story about Catholic nuns. I read somewhere about this nun going toe-to-toe with a warlord. She inspired me. In my dream, I wanted to be her. This is what I was thinking about yesterday in worship.
It was Mother’s Day. Typically, it’s a day that I have an internal battle between being so eternally grateful for my step-mother and so furiously angry that there is no space for me to mourn that I miss the mother that gave me birth. David Bruni tells that story well. That’s not what happened yesterday. Yesterday, as we told the story of the complicated story of Abraham and Sarah, I struggled with that identity question of being a woman. It’s the other part of this celebration on Mother’s Day that I find troublesome because I really do still dream about going toe-to-toe with that warlord. I’m not so sure I want to be a mom. So, I find myself wondering: are women defined only as mothers? Is that really what it means to be a woman? Carol Howard Merritt offers this lovely affirmation. Still, I find myself wanting to talk about the nuns and the ways that their feminine identity makes the whole world nervous. That’s the kind of woman that I most admire. That’s who I want to celebrate — mostly because I want to see that in myself.