“If Priscilla of Thecla had written our epistles instead of Paul, I suggest there would have been a good deal about Incarnation and relatively little about circumcision!” Margaret Guenther, Holy Listening, The Art of Spiritual Direction. p. 124.
Guenther reminds us to be sensitive to women’s issues such as “not being deserving,” women’s tentative speech from fear of causing anger. She helped me realize my own fear of speaking out that I might say the wrong thing. She reminds us to be aware of the burden of repetitive menial work that women often do that is never done or finished that is part of their life style, doing work that so often is noticed only when neglected. She reminds us never to be condescending even when the story is not theologically sophisticated.
A spiritual director is called to help directees to trust their own voice. We are called to help both men and women to be comfortable with feminine imagery for God in prayer. She asks us to remind others of the brave women who anointed Jesus, and especially the story in Mark (14:3-9) of the woman with the alabaster jar when Jesus said, “Wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”
Guenther believes that the greatest sin in women is not pride but self-contempt often with an apparent absorption in triviality. She describes an icon for this is Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, a day in the life of a high society woman in post-World War I London preparing for a party.
When we talk to women who may have been abused, Guenther suggests we ask the questions, “What do you want” and Where do you hurt?”
Guenther reminded me of times when I as well was verbally hurt by other colleagues but showed no anger, because it was not acceptable. I have allowed some other women and men repeatedly verbally to abuse me because I knew if I just stayed kind, it would change, and that there probably was something I had done wrong to deserve this action.
A question to ask when we sense verbal or sexual abuse is, “I sense you have been hurt a lot.” When I perceive a special woundedness, I hope not to be afraid to ask the difficult questions, “Where was God when all this was happening to you? Where is God now? Do you feel angry at God?” I hope that eventually all of us will continue to see that God was there right beside us, suffering with us all along.
Lastly, Guenther writes about the danger of prematurity in prayers of forgiveness and reminds us to counsel those who come for direction to pray to want to be able to forgive--- someday.