At the same time, when my professors affirmed my writing abilities, I was not willing to hear what they were saying, dismissing it as a pretense, a choice to be nice to me to keep me paying tuition! (I am now quite appalled and embarrassed by my cynicism! Self-contempt turned to contempt for others.) I also discovered that I was in the midst of a pendulum swing with regard to some of my self-perceptions. When I took a Myers-Briggs assessment in school that year, I scored near zero in thinking and near 100 percent in feeling. My academic record begged to differ. I needed time to settle into a more realistic sense of myself. As I noted in the introduction, this was also the season in my life when I began to become aware of my tendency toward self-sabotage.
These new self-discoveries began to subtly reshape my faith journey. I longed for stillness and silence, fewer words, more sacraments. With my barefoot-little-girl sensibilities restored, I needed to taste and touch and smell my worship. My faith shifted from being book- and knowledge-centered to becoming more gospel- and wisdom-centered. I was drawn to the perplexing and confounding teachings of Jesus. My merciful heart subtly shifted the priority from learning more about righteousness via books to receiving and offering more mercy via Communion and action. As one of my wise professors said, "You need a church with a different furniture arrangement." He was referencing the different emphases of traditions that place the pulpit front and center compared to those that are physically centered around an altar and Communion.
Graduate school was marvelous, but when our finances dictated an earlier-than-expected return a year later, I was struggling. Though I could complete my degree long-distance, I loved the Pacific Northwest. I did not want to move back to the refinery-filled landscape of southeast Texas. I knew I could not return to the same church. Even more sadly, I also knew that there was nothing I could say to those I loved that would adequately explain why.
The Syrophoenician Woman
Like many accounts of women in Scripture, this is a brief story. Brief, however, does not translate to small in meaning. This text is much like the miracle sponge you see advertised on television: If we pour ourselves into it, we will see it expand before our eyes!