What right do I have to write anything? I was not a fan, and magically pretending I was would be disingenuous, and a lie. There are people I would not invite to speak of me at my death. In that same way, I doubt I'd be invited to speak of her now. There's still something that I must say. It's a realization we must address.
One of my favorite childhood summer activities was collecting cicada shells off the trees. The idea of a bug crawling out of their own skin and leaving it behind captivated me. I could do anything to that shell and the bug would be just fine. Sometimes I laid them out and crushed them to dust. Sometimes I collected them on my dresser. I always began the same, carefully removing them from the tree to save those tiny legs clinging to the bark.
Yet I never knew what the cicada really looked like. My potential imagination sometimes made it look like a giant butterfly, almost a moonlight fairy. Sometimes it was a rainbow beetle. It's shell shimmering all the colors of the rainbow, as it crawled among the trees.
Then, one day, my great grandmother pointed one out to me, and I was horrified. That didn't look magical at all! It looked horrifying! My illusions were shattered. Now I knew the truth. It was thing of nightmares!
After that moment, I would always tell the truth of cicadas to my friends as we would collect the shells. "These shells are really neat, but the bug that comes out of them are monstrous.
Many years later I would smugly share my immense wisdom on cicadas when the person I was imparting this wisdom kindly disagreed. "Cicadas are beautiful. It's the shell that's ugly. Have you ever seen a cicada that's just shed it's shell? Their magical. The shell is covered in all the dirt, darkness, wind and rain. Look." He pulled me to his computer, because this was long ago enough that we all had dumb phones. Pulling up an image of a cicada right after shedding it's skin, I saw what he saw.
A year ago and a day from the day Rachel Held Evens passed away I apologized to Beth Moore. I have no idea if Moore ever saw that apology, and I'm sure she had no idea that I needed to apologize. I don't pretend my digital footprint is worth anything beyond the words typed out in these meditations.
A year ago I asked forgiveness for thinking less of Beth Moore because she was an un-ordained female Christian leader. I didn't realize she tried to earn a degree in religious studies and was shunned by her males colleagues. A year ago I placed Moore against Rachel Held Evans writing that people like Rachel Held Evans exist to keep really smart and worthy women within a seminary world down. As I wrote privately, she was safe. While others were suggesting it was her honesty that made her scandalous, I was saying her lack of education made her palatable. She wasn't ordained, so if she ever went too far it could be dismissed. I deeply believe this is why our biggest female Christian speakers are just that, speakers. We want a female voice, as long as that voice doesn't have too much power.
When I wrote the Beth Moore post I felt a call to include Rachel in that apology, and what she represented was so personally hurtful to me as an ordained minister, I couldn't. This was made the most clear when I openly shared how I took a male username for 1/2 a year. People called me a liar for having a username, where I didn't say one way or another about my gender. Being called a deceiver made me angrier at Evans, who seemed to flit into fame because she was outside authority. For the sake of equality, I needed to focus on women within authority. Evans was taking away that focus!
Now she's gone, and it hits me in my guts like a ton of bricks. What I hated, what has personally hurt me was not Rachel Held Evans. It was the shell surrounding her. Now she is gone. The beautiful moonlight fairy, rainbow beetle, has left, but the dirty systemic issues remain. It wasn't her fault that the system worked the way it did. It's not her that hurt me. It's that damn shell that's pained me all these years, and continues to hurt.
Now what remains, that shell, is vile. We all have them, forced carapaces. Society paints, tattoos, cuts it into our identity. Society's idea of who we should be for the world is a dirty covering, and that is all. Much like our accumulated wealth, we can't take it with us in death.
Now we are left with it, and we can do anything to that shell. We can glorify it. We can put it on a shelf and move on. The one I personally like is we can crush it to dust.
I'm done making enemies of my sisters in faith. I'm done being angry because someone has decided my carapace speaks to my soul. We won't take those shells with us in the end. Why do we let systemic belief cover over the Truth? Every day I learn how I'm wrong. I pray as I make steps in the right direction we can forgive one another, and not beat one another with the leftovers.
-Rev Melissa Fain