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Episode 4. Epiphany and Curiosity (Examen)

February 4, 2021

Episode 6. This is My Body: A Body Scan Meditation

Episode 18. Freeing Women from “Biblical Womanhood” with Beth Allison Barr

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I'm Morgan Strehlow - writer and host of the Sanctuary Woman podcast.

Meet Morgan

The vision for what ultimately became Sanctuary Woman, started coming together in February 2020. Pre-pandemic, of course.

My entire life, really, has been leading up to this. But over the course of the year 2020, when life seemingly stood still. When time slowed down. When the hustle slowed down. When we slowed down. Our bodies slowed down.

That’s when it all started coming together.

I’m going to share with you about my own epiphanies and curiosities that led to this podcast, Sanctuary Woman. And as you listen to my story, ask God for holy perspective as you reflect back on how the holy spirit has is guiding you toward your next right thing. Think about what you’ve been learning about God, about yourself, about the world. Think about what you still want to learn about God, about yourself, about the world.

Sanctuary Woman was born out of a deep pain, deep hope, deep desire. I had long been searching for a true place of belonging, and I suppose on this side of heaven there may never be a place that we experience that kind of belonging that we all long for. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try, right?

While we have been home, sheltered in place, in physical isolation from the rest of the world, I’ve realized the importance of togetherness. Not necessarily physically – although that’s wonderful, sometimes, The most basic definition of liturgy is “the way people worship in public” and that begged the question – how do I worship in public, when I’m not going out in public? What does liturgy look like, when our primary vehicle for togetherness, for gathering, is digital – it’s online, technology dependent.

But even before we were all stuck at home, there were a lot of lonely, isolated women. I know this because I knew them. I was them.

Sanctuary Woman started out as Sacred Cliturgy – A play on words, that blended ancient Christian worship and spirituality with the very good body part that God gave women for the sole purpose of pleasure and delight. It was a brave and bold name, and I loved that it broke the ice from the start and gave us permission to have the brave conversations we’ve been longing to have with one another, but because the church has clothed them in shame for so long many of us resist being that vulnerable. And rather than showing up with our whole minds and our whole bodies, we suppress that which the church may have told us is shameful.

So whether that’s sexuality – the lack of desire, or a lot of desire, or infertility, or it’s your singleness, your separation, your sin – past or present, your suffering, your sadness.

For me, it was a suppressed and shame-filled sexuality. As a child and teen growing up in the era of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and True Love Waits, purity culture had properly equipped me to be the good Christian girl but it ended there. I had not been prepared to become a woman, let alone a married woman.

I almost left the faith because a performative faith tailor made for The Good Girl™ was not sustainable into adulthood. I have watched many, many of my peers leave and reject the Christian faith altogether for these very reasons.

After a lot of pain and learning and talking and asking questions and healing and forgiving… I knew I wasn’t supposed to simply move on. Because I spent years frustrated because I failed to find women who were talking about sex and sexuality, and talking about it in a way that wasn’t prescriptive or oppressive or toxic – but redemptive and good and holy and empowering. With nuance. I knew by that point, that my shame was not uncommon. That there were so many women looking for the brave spaces, the safe spaces, where that shame could finally be undone. So I set in motion to create such a space.

I don’t want to sit and watch more women walk away from the Christian faith because the church continues to fail them as women. Rather, I want to actively become a church that welcomes, affirms and loves women in all of the various ways God has created us to reflect her image.

I strive for this to be a space that reflects the love of Christ, but this will not be a space free of church criticism. Because of my love for the church, and because of the very example Jesus has shown us in the gospels, I will compassionately and unapologetically call us as a church toward a better way. Criticism is sometimes necessary to this end.

What are you longing to understand about God? 

About yourself? 

About the world? 

What would it look like for you to ask questions and begin learning in public or in community? What if your asking of courageous questions gives the next woman permission to also have courageous questions? 

In upcoming episodes I will be inviting women to join me on the podcast to have honest, and courageous conversations. Because we shouldn’t have to keep our questions and curiosities to ourselves.

I’m going to read now from Exodus 3, a story many of us are familiar with and have heard many times before. This time, we’re going to listen to it using the practice of Lectio Divina.

Lectio Divina is an ancient liturgical practice for praying the scriptures. It is a Latin phrase that means “sacred reading.” It is a way of praying and listening for the still, small voice of God speaking through gentle reading or listening of scripture.  Lectio Divina has also been known as “listening with the ear of the heart.”

As you settle into a place of loving openness, in a posture or position to listen more deeply, I’ll read the selected scripture three times. After each reading, there will be a moment of communal silence.

In this first reading from Exodus 3, listen for a word or a phrase that draws your attention.

In this second reading, consider how this passage touches your life today.

In this third reading of the scripture, consider if there is an invitation for you in this coming week.

Meanwhile, Moses was shepherding the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian. He led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. Then the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire within a bush. As Moses looked, he saw that the bush was on fire but was not consumed. So Moses thought, “I must go over and look at this remarkable sight. Why isn’t the bush burning up?”

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called out to him from the bush, “Moses, Moses!”

“Here I am,” he answered.

“Do not come closer,” he said. “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he continued, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people in Egypt, and have heard them crying out because of their oppressors. I know about their sufferings, and I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and to bring them from that land to a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So because the Israelites’ cry for help has come to me, and I have also seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them, therefore, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh so that you may lead my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

But Moses asked God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

He answered, “I will certainly be with you, and this will be the sign to you that I am the one who sent you: when you bring the people out of Egypt, you will all worship God at this mountain.”

Prayer:

God of Moses, 

God who sets people free. 

You welcome our brave questions. You ask us to do brave things. 

Thank you, for being a wayfinder, for leading your children out of oppression, out of shame, and into freedom and into your loving kindness. As each of us finds our way back to you, may we also become a wayfinder. May we be a Sanctuary. 

Amen.

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