Lent 2022 officially began Ash Wednesday, March 2nd and as it is also Women’s History Month, as a lady pastor it only seems fitting that I take this opportunity to speak to the women who have heavily influenced my spirituality and continue to offer me new paths to the Divine.
For those of you who might not know, Lent is a season in the church year (mostly Catholic and main-line Protestant church years) that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday. It consists of 40 days in remembrance of Christ’s 40 days in the wilderness and has historically been characterized by repentance, prayer, fasting and alms giving. In more modern language, it is a time set aside for deep self-reflection and an invitation to self-disciplines intended to realign our thoughts, bodies and actions to God’s will, not our own.
I, for one, love Lent. Coming in late February and March in Minnesota, it gives me permission to feel my darker more emo feelings as winter lingers on even as spring tries to peep through the snow and clouds. It just feels like such a fitting season for my emotional state each year and I relish the time to soak in all the feelz. As a self-proclaimed book lover, I of course turn to the literary world for form, content and inspiration through these 40 days and some of my most favorite spiritual writers and guides have been women, so let me just share briefly with you about a few.
For this list I have stuck to the women whose writing has impacted my spirituality specifically. There are many more who have moved my theological thought, leadership and understanding of the church, but those are for another time.
To begin, let’s start with some mystics whose writings have been excavated in recent centuries, St. Teresa of Avila and Julian of Norwich. Teresa first gave me the language of “Beloved” for God which she uses in “The Interior Castle.” I have adopted this same language in my personal prayer life along with “Heart” and “Breath” for Jesus and the Spirit respectively, flushing out the Holy Trinity.
Julian of Norwich is who I am reading this Lent. I will be diving deeply into her writings, but already, a few days in, I find the earthy incarnate relationship she experiences and articulates resonating with me.
Non Religious Figures
It’s important to remember that spiritual influences don’t have to be “religious” figures. Three women whose writings have shaped and reshaped my spirituality are Maya Angelou, Alice Walker and more recently Madeleine L’Engle. All three of these women shared their spirituality through their writings, poetry, prose and even fiction. Both Angelou and Walker have helped me ground my experience of the Divine in my body and in creation, understanding that these are not separate but a relational whole. Of late, L’Engle’s poetry has helped illuminate Bible stories through a mundane everyday lens. Encounters with the Divine occur daily if we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.
Every affront to human dignity necessarily affects me as a human being on the planet, because I know every single thing on earth is connected.Alice Walker – In Search of our Mother’s Gardens (pg. 353)
A couple modern writers who have influenced my spirituality, particularly in regards to my orientation to God, the world, and community are adrienne maree brown and Robin Wall Kimmerer. All of brown’s books push me to change my behavior in small ways with the belief it can and will help change the world. brown reminds me that our being in the world isn’t an intellectual exercise but a lived experience and one that can emerge, evolve and grow. While Wall Kimmerer’s book “Braiding Sweetgrass” reads like a devotional, offering space for intentional and deep connection to the earth system around us.
There are so many ways to access your spirituality and nothing is a one-size fits all in this experience. These are few places to start or continue your journey and for some additional books to add to your own spiritual practice and growth see below.
Happy Reading Everyone!
Contemporary Prayer/Blessing Books
- Ordinary Blessings by Meta Herrick Carlson
- A Rhythm of Prayer Edited by Sarah Bessy
- Circle of Grace by Jan Richardson
Devotionals Authors to Check Out
- Joyce Rupp
- Joan Chittister