I recently finished reading Womanchrist: A New Vision of Feminist Spirituality, a book which has left me quite perplexed. The author, Christin Lore Weber, is a former nun who left the convent, married, remarried when her first husband died, mothered children, and is now (if I remember correctly) a grandmother. Her writing is beautiful: lyrical, vivid, evocative; she speaks movingly of the stages of her life and personal quest. She sounds like a lovely person: a woman with whom I’d enjoy long, deeply exploratory chats while out walking or over a cozy, shared cuppa together; a woman with whom it would be easy to empathize. Her grief at the death of loved ones is almost painfully honest and deeply personal; her joy at the fragile beauty of life is equally, intensely brilliant.
Throughout most of her book, in fact, I found myself nodding in agreement, sympathy, and/or understanding – which made some of her conclusions even more jarring than ordinary. It’s one thing to read a logical argument that comes to a conclusion with which you disagree. I’ve found it’s another entirely to follow along her chain of reasoning with agreement and fascination – and then to discover at the end that the author has veered off in an entirely unexpected – and emotionally unwelcome – direction.
I’m still working out my views on this subject, so this posting may ramble a bit. I would be interested on the thoughts of others as well, regarding this fascinating and perplexing book.
Spirituality and Christianity
Weber writes at one point of discovering both that she was in search of her true inner Self – and that she didn’t really know who that person was. Her pain and confusion is clear: “For the past two years I had been throwing myself into community renewal efforts, trying to prove to myself and to others that I belonged. However, my giving of myself to the community did not have the effect I wanted. Instead, I felt increasingly exhausted and empty. I felt like nobody” (112). She realized she had to leave the convent in that quest, or else forever amputate an integral part of her being. She uses evocative metaphor to beautifully illustrate her spiritual questing for her Self and how it is part of the great wholeness of life, concluding, “Only after ‘I am’ [the discovery of the Self] is true service, true giving, real generosity possible. We begin to sense the spheres of welcome within, which prepare us, by a total acceptance of self, to welcome the world” (113).
I found myself strongly in agreement with this, as it has been my experience that we all share this searching, this need within our lives, to some degree. Admittedly, we all take different paths, and are differently successful, but I could understand Weber’s searching desire for the peace and compassion she seems to have found. I could also empathize with her emptiness at struggling so hard to convince herself she belonged – I’ve been there repeatedly, after having moved so many times in my life, and having to re-create myself each time.