Cleaning-woman God.

I interviewed with my district committee this morning in order to pass into the next phase of affirmation toward ordination in the United Methodist Church.  In the process of this interview, which included questions about my theology, my understanding of ordination, my own call to ministry, and the opportunity to list my own weaknesses, one of my committee members asked me a surprising question: Which is my favorite parable?  Anyone who knows me knows a couple of things: 1) I’m pretty into inclusivity.  In other words, I don’t really “do” favorites.  I kind of love everything.  2) I’m into hyperbole (see number one).  If I love something, I love it – it’s fantastic, amazing, incredible.  If I dislike it, it’s “That’s horrendous!” Or, at least until next time, when there’s an exception.  I’m sure it drives people crazy.  In fact, I know it does.  So, when asked, “What’s your favorite…?” I totally freeze up.  All of a sudden, my mind touches on a million options (or at least five), and I get the sense of being unfairly pinned down.  The thing is, in these situations, sometimes something about me really does reveal itself.  So it was this morning.  I sat quietly for a few moments, waiting for inspiration and thinking of the various implications of each of the parables coming to mind… and then just opened my mouth and worked with the first thing that came out.

One story that Jesus tells, right after the lost sheep and right before the famous “prodigal son” in Luke 15, makes my heart warm.  Actually, if this isn’t too weird, the feeling I get from that parable is the same body-sense I get from being in love – deep comfort, total clarity, exceptional hope.  It gets about two verses, and it’s in the form of a question… He says, “Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?”  What woman, indeed?

I’ve lost things.  Lots of things, big and little, important and insignificant.  People, too.  Ideas, hopes, opportunities.  But that coin, it represents something special.  Everytime I think of that parable, I think of that woman, sort of middle-aged, in the center of her simple house, standing with her hands on her hips for a moment or two, thinking.  Then, suddenly, on her hands and knees on that hard, dirt-packed floor, tearing things out of corners, throwing blankets, pots, living space-things behind her with intensity, even abandon, the other nine coins stacked carefully on her rough kitchen table, glinting in the lamp light.  Systematically but frantically searching for that little silver coin in the dark, dirty corner it’s rolled itself into.  It’s equal to all of the others she has, already waiting there collected, but that’s just it… it’s equal in value.  It, too, deserves to be sought out, found, shined on the hem of her apron and gathered together with the others.  To be put where it belongs, in its home.  Because what’s wrong with a lost coin?  One thing: it can’t fulfill its purpose, the thing it was made for.  Separated from its brethren, it’s not able to be as fully-what-it-is as it might be.  It’s valuable in its own right, even more valuable when gathered into its community.

Telling this story to the committee, I lost it.  I mean, big, rolling tears started pouring over my face and I felt the weird feeling of telling a story from the heart of the world.  Wondering what it was about this story, I realized it’s my gospel.  One line, in the form of a question.  Who, what God, would not do this, would not gather together each and every one?   The one in whom I am learning every day to trust would.  The God I know, realizing this little coin has been lost, has gotten down on her knobby, creaking knees in the mud and the garbage and scrabbled through with her bare hands looking desperately and intently for me, like parent looks for her child lost in a crowd, to bring me back home… un-distracted by anything not immediately related to the problem, disregarding any consequence other than that of finding, of seeking and finding.

There’s a poem that matches this sense of God for me, and it was envisioned by the 14th century Hindu poet Janibai.  It’s entitled, “You leave your greatness behind you.”  May you, too, feel with deep assurance that God has left God’s greatness behind, just for you, to show you that you are loved, coveted, and needed for the building up of the Kingdom.

Jani has had enough of samsara,/but how will I repay my debt?/ You leave your greatness behind you to grind and pound with me./ O Lord you become a woman/ washing me and my soiled clothes,/ proudly you carry the water and gather dung with your own two hands./ O Lord, I want/ a place at your feet,/ says Jani, Namdev’s dasi.



  1. […] and yet it eludes me how to draw things together. I read  post on a friend’s blog as she described a parable and it touched me… her expression of not being a “favorites” person, something I relate to […]

  2. Tracy Said:

    I’m so beyond grateful that God reached out to me, saved me and calls me His own.

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