My stay-put Janie broke last week. I cried. What, you ask, is a stay-put Janie? It's a very useful clergy girl garment made by the wonderful people at Women's Spirit. It's this generation of clergy's answer to the "dickey" (which makes me want to make all sorts of bad jokes, but I won't). It's a simple, yet terribly clever, sort of half shirt that clips together on each side. The Janie makes it possible for the words "fashionable" and "clergy shirt" to go together. You can wear a Janie under most scoop neck blouses or v-neck sweaters and still have your completely appropriate Anglican collar and black shirt on, but not be tied to wearing only black shirts. Fashion can still happen people...even in the priesthood! And Lord knows black shirts in Houston are a barrel of fun. It's enough to have a plastic collar around your neck!
I cried because this particular Janie I have had since I was ordained in 2001. It's seen me through an awful lot of priestly work. It has had a lot of people's tears on it, tears of joy and tears of deep anguish. It's carried mine own joyful and anguished tears too. (And yes I've washed it a lot, but I'm going for a metaphor here). It broke the week that our Diocesan bishop retired, the week I cancelled the subscription to the newsletter from my former church, the week I didn't stumble (finally) when someone asked me where I lived. And for all those reasons I cried.
It's a funny thing about symbols and metaphors. They are all around us, which it's both quite comforting and quite annoying! You can over symboli-gize something...what's that old line? Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. But as a person who lives in the world of Sacraments, I am deeply grateful for the daily symbols that are all around us.
Sacraments are symbols of God's love of us, outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace, the catechism tells us. They are tangible things for an intangible truth. And they are everywhere. I don't know that God speaks through the kind of exciting, dramatic instruments the Sacred Scriptures tell us about. I haven't seen a lot of burning bushes lately. That does not mean of course that God can't! You'll hear me say many many times, God can do whatever God wants to do!
Nor do I think that God broke my Janie! But I do think that if we chose to, we can move through life in a way that allows for the possibility that God is fully present all the time and still interested in speaking to us through myriad ways...most of which for me, at least, don't make good television, but do make good reflection fodder.
My broken Janie brought me to tears which brought me to some time of deep prayer and reflection...which is always a good thing. Not always a fun thing...but always a good thing. The tears also brought me to a lot of chocolate, but that's a story for another day. The Janie sits crumpled on a shelf in my closet reminding me that there's a next chapter, that it's time to let go of some things and open up to the new things. Reminding me that God is present in our past and our future and of course in this very moment. And that connection, unlike the little clips that have to strain against the chubby sides of my body, will never break.