Tuesday, January 11, 2005

My Spiral Staircase

I've come very nearly to tears five times today. I continue to make my way through Karen Armstrong's poignant and powerful biography The Spiral Staircase. Several people recommended this book to me, in particular, saying that I might identify with some of Karen's journey. On the surface, that seemed unlikely—she's British, I'm American; she was a Catholic nun, I was an evangelical missionary; she's remained single while I married at 22 and had five children.

Yet the spirit of her story is so familiar that I find myself writing my own corresponding chapters in my head. Her time in the convent reminds me of my time as an isolated missionary newly married in an oppressively male Muslim culture. How could that be? What could those experiences possibly have in common? And yet they were similar—similar in the earnestness of my desire to serve and know God, the willingness to subordinate my theological questions and experiences to those in authority over me (including authority like a literal interpretation of the Bible), the sense of alienation from self, the repeated and failed attempts to fit into the culture I wanted to adopt as my own, the chastising voice of my Moroccan landlady that might have been Karen's Mother Superior, the puzzling sense of failure at the thing I had thought God called me to, had designed me for...

She's got me thinking.

1 comment:

WordyKaren said...

Thanks for sharing your near-tears regarding Karen Armstrong's biography. Now I want to read it too. I have a feeling I could do some life comparing of my own since she was in a convent and I was taught by those who dwelled in convents. That seems so long ago–yet the imprint of those women is still on my soul–some for the good, and some for the not so good. I'm grateful for the opportunities I've had to look at those imprints and to see them for what they are.

I also appreciated your comments about my musings on house cleaning. It seems whatever I'm up to each day, I can make special, by simply shifting my point of view to one of gratitude for just being alive–and able. Life is such a wonder!