The word “sacred” itself conjures all kinds of thoughts, ideas, and meanings. Sometimes these are good, rich, and beautiful; other times, not so much. I’m committed to the former. Even more, I’m committed to healing the latter, to redefining the sacred. You get to make it your own, to imbue meaning into any and everything that helps you discover the sacred within. And that – the sacred within – is the most divine thing you could possibly do.
Every Monday this month, I’m looking at various aspects of the sacred and inviting you to redefine them for yourself. Because you can. Because you must. Because the sacred is you, you know. The real, holy you. And you matter. A lot.
Though there are many sacred texts, the one I know the best, struggle with the most, and can’t quite seem to let go of no matter what else I’ve set aside along the way, is the bible. Even typing the word creates tension for me; a book that is so rife with meaning and misunderstanding, beauty and its opposite, wisdom and (when misapplied) violence and harm. It’s polarizing, to be sure…and…this is, at least in part, why it is so critical that we come to it on our own terms.
We would not be the first women to do so.
In 1895, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a suffragist and political activist, was determined to bring a woman’s voice to a man’s text. (I love this!) In 1886 she attempted to form a revising committee of female biblical scholars, but was disappointed when even they found her claims suspect, namely that she did not believe the Bible to be divinely inspired. (Yes, even then…) Undaunted, she tried again in 1894, this time with women who were Theosophists, New Thought Leaders, and Freethinkers. The result was The Woman’s Bible – a revolutionary work for that time; for all time.
Maureen Fitzgerald, in her foreword to the 1993 edition says, “…Stanton chose to produce the work precisely because so many would see such a document as a scandalous, radical act…” (I love this!)
Were we to come to the text and make it our own – as a scandalous, radical act – we would, indeed, come to know the sacred (and ourselves) in revolutionary and life/world-changing ways.
Come, come, my conservative [or perhaps, liberal] friend, wipe the dew off your spectacles, and see that the world is moving. Whatever your views may be as to the…proposed work, your political and social degradation are but an outgrowth of your status in the Bible…How can woman’s position be changed from that of a subordinate to an equal, without opposition, without the broadest discussion of all the questions involved in her present degradation? For so far-reaching and momentous a reform as her complete independence, an entire revolution in all existing institutions is inevitable. ~ Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Preach it, sister!
It has been said that when Stanton and her colleagues went about the work of creating The Woman’s Bible, they literally tore out pages and sections of the text itself – each of them assigned particular passages, stories, and parts. Can’t you just see this: the radical act of tearing scripture – succeeded only by then rewriting it with a 19th century view of woman as equal? What might you rewrite today?
This is, of course, what I am doing all the time – reimagining, retelling, and redeeming the text of the ancient, sacred stories of women. I do this not so much because I am loyal to the text, but because I long to honor the women within. For the most part, they’ve been misinterpreted and misunderstood, if not just forgotten. And this is not acceptable to me.
You cannot convince me otherwise: the misinterpretation and misunderstanding that ancient, sacred stories of women have known is what breeds misinterpretation and misunderstanding in my story every single day. Yours, as well.
The reverse is also true: when these same stories are reimagined and redeemed, mine (and yours) can be, will be, are, too.
Some have questioned my methods – wondering if I’m taking too many liberties with this sacred text. But what makes it sacred, if not its applicability, its relevance, and the ways in which it speaks to me? Indeed, the more liberties I take, the better.
This is the sacred on my terms, on a woman’s terms, as it should be – and must be.
Not just me: you, as well.
You have permission.
So…do exactly this!
Carve out some time this week to go to any sacred text of choice and reclaim it for yourself. Reimagine it. Rewrite it. Redeem it for you! You might even tear it up or make it into a collage or use it for paper mâché or any number of things. You make it sacred because you imbue it with your meaning!
As is true with liturgy, and prayer – so too, text. This is how you reclaim the sacred for yourself – on your own terms, in your own ways, through your own lens, on behalf of your own experience. Because you can. Because you must. Because the sacred is you, you know. The real, holy you. And you matter. A lot.
Next week, Part 4 – Community
The most powerful way in which a woman experiences the sacred on her terms is when she becomes more and more of her (sacred) self: confident, strong, vulnerable, tender, all of these and then some. There is nothing I want more than for you to know and experience exactly this. Which is why it’s what I talk about – and offer – over and over (and over) again. Learn more: www.ronnadetrick.com/start-here
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