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On the taking of vows

July 4, 2013

Ten days now, and the countdown has begun. On one level, I’m scurrying around trying to deal with details — who does what, who sleeps where, how to make some sort of order out of the chaos of boxes and books that surrounds me. And on a deeper level, I’m listening intently to the cacophony of internal chaos that rolls around in my soul.

What does it mean to take vows? I’ve done it before, more than once in my life. Standing at the altar, stained glass casting a luminous glow all around, young and dreamy eyed with flowers in my hair and my hands, throwing caution to the wind, I vowed to love another person until death, to care for each other in whatever circumstances life threw at us. As I said those words so many years ago, I made promises that in many ways I was completely unprepared to keep. And yet. And yet, as the hours turned to days and weeks and years, the words slowly became real, slowly seeped into the marrow of my life. Even after all these years, it is those vows which frame much of how I act and react, of how I relate to others and understand myself. And I’m quite certain that without making vows that day, I would never have been able to stay with the whole enterprise of living with another person for my whole life.

I vowed again, three times, not with words but with my very being, birthing three people into this world with an implicit vow to be with them, take care of them, love them and let go of them, help them be their truest self, for the rest of my days. Those vows were real and raw, wrought in the long months of growth and nurture as their bodies formed, and when the moment came, a fierce truth set into my soul that I would do anything to honor the silent vow of being a mother to these children. Through the long days and short years, my patience has been tested but never my deep knowing that this was a lifelong gig, one that changed me right up front and seems to keep me always dipping my foot in Heraclitus’ river, looking for constancy in the swift moving waters of change in my life. My feet are always wet, it seems.

Just six short months ago, before another altar, I knelt and vowed for my life to take on a new rhythm. We joked about it in seminary, the ‘ontological change’ that would happen at ordination. People asked me afterward if I felt anything when the bishop laid his hands on my head and called on the Holy Spirit to make me something I wasn’t. All I can say, as hokey as it sounds, is that yes, something happened in those moments – a sense of the weight of the words and of his hands, and in the stillness an incredible lightness, a knowing that this is what I am meant for, am made for, have been longing for my whole life. I was completely present and aware while also being lit from within and free from myself, embraced by Something More.

So now my mind turns to this next vow I am about to take, to be a priest in Christ’s one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Am I ready? Do I know what in heaven’s name I am doing? These are not just words in a church, said for the sake of ritual and form. These vows are laying my soul naked before God, agreeing to once again be molded and formed, through fire and water and oil, into what God needs me to be in the world. Like marriage and motherhood, I likely have no idea what is in store for my life, what new rhythm will emerge. And yet, in the midst of this reality is the equally humbling certainty that I can’t not take this vow. This is who I am. And the knowing makes up for any lack. I am becoming. It is God who is at work in me, who is vowing to me that I am never alone, that every day, in every hour, God will give me exactly what I need to live out the vow I take.

One Comment
  1. You are wonderful! Wishing we could hear your sermons like this every week! I guess you will just have to write a book…wow! xo!

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