Toeing the Line

Toeing the Line January 9, 2006

I am pretty darn sure the entire world is sick and tired of talking about my hair, but I feel compelled to report that it happened again today.

Dear, lovely, wonderful . . . some of my very favorite . . . congregation members asked at the door after worship, “Are you growing your hair out?”

It must have been my look of dismay/horror/irritation/exasperation that led them to pat me on the arm and exclaim, “Don’t worry, honey. You still look pretty to us no matter what your hair looks like.”

Glad everyone got a chance to WORSHIP GOD this morning.

And, as long as we’re talking about what I look like, I think it’s time to tell the world something that very few people know about me.

Are you ready?

I grew up in a totally non-liturgical Christian tradition. That meant that Advent wreaths were viewed with thinly veiled suspicion and I thought until long into college that Maundy Thursday was some sort of government holiday recalling the invasion of . . . Maundy?

So, when I decided to rebel (as we all do at some point in our lives) well, it was not pretty.

And in the tradition of all religious nerds, in my case it wasn’t wild parties or strange body piercings.

No, it was church.

I remember, for example, insisting to my poor Baptist boyfriend from rural Louisiana that I just could not celebrate Christmas with his family unless he agreed to attend the local Catholic mass at midnight on Christmas Eve. (Can you believe his mother didn’t run me off? Little did she know that would only be the first of so many horrifically radical mud puddles I would drag the family name through after her son married me!)

It only got worse from there. I have been known to set up altar candles, practice silent meditation, sing taize choruses in worship, hold Ash Wednesday services with the imposition of ashes, collect icons in my office, listen to chants . . . all sorts of high-churchy, liturically radical things.

Don’t you just love being a rebel?

I’ve had to tone it down a little, as you might imagine, since I am now a parent.

Oh, and I pastor a Baptist church.

To be fair, anyone familiar with Calvary will know that group of folks is pretty game for most anything–even some of the liturgical stuff. (My colleague Jim Somerville recently hypnotized a chicken in his church’s fellowship hall. We’re not quite there yet.) But overall,the liturgical traditions are still a little foreign to our collective way of thinking. And thus they are (she sighs with longing) radical . . . rebellious!

But the more folks get to know me, if they are paying any kind of attention at all, they will soon begin to suspect that I probably am not the perfectly respectable woman Baptist pastor I appear to be (hold on . . . is there such a thing? I think not!)

Yes, it’s true. Lest you believe that, in my attempt to appease all those hair-watchers out there, I’ve given in to the status quo, put my rebel in my past, surrendered to the inevitability of tradition, totally and completely embraced the regular singing of all the Blood Hymns . . . well, have I got news for you.

You’d never know it, of course, but I have a personal, rebellious tradition that continues without most folks’ knowledge, and it makes me feel downright . . . well, wild.

In honor of my youthful rebellion, my toenails are always painted the color of whatever liturgical season we’re observing.

That means, if you keep up with these sorts of things, today I took off purple nail polish and put on green. Yup, green.

That’s right, friends. Not only is my hair growing out . . . I have shiny green laquered toenails.

Epiphany, you know?

They say you can never judge a book by its cover. And you’d never know, aside from my publishing the fact on the World Wide Web, of course, how truly, radically wild the pastor really is.

The larger question is, of course, how wild can she be? How far will this travesty go?

Well, I’ve been thinking. This Lent we’re talking about sin . . . the seven deadly, to be exact. What if I got really wild and painted my toes a different color EVERY SINGLE WEEK–the color of the sin we’re discussing?

If this isn’t a matter for the Personnel Committee, I don’t know what is.

This, and my hair, of course.

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