Rev. Catharine Is Currently
On Medical Leave

Authenticity: Surrender or Collapse?

Authenticity: Surrender or Collapse?

In my last post, I wrote about how important authenticity seems to be for many of my readers, here and in Reflections.

I mentioned various kinds of tender topics I cover, and that folks have said they appreciate them. But what about the maxim given to so many new preachers?

Preach from Scars, not Wounds?

Preach from scars, not wounds.

Scars, not wounds.

A scar may be visible on one’s body, it may have transformed one’s body in powerful, irrevocable ways, or over time, it may very nearly disappear. The idea of preaching from scars, not wounds presumes that wounds heal, that scarring is okay to share because it is not raw, it is not burnt, it is not being poked at day by day?

Does this position of only preaching from scars center those who already most centered in the culture.

deep hedonism

If I don’t write about being fat, if I don’t write about mental illness, if I don’t write about being on various sexual edges (despite realizing that I am now a nice married lady of a certain age!), if I don’t write about these things, then how may I dare to write about spirituality, yearning for Divine Communion, deep hedonism and the ordeals that change us, the body as part of Earth and Starry Heaven. How dare I?

These things, these deep, spiritual questions, are what compel me in my writing.

And they would not exist in me, as they do, without my being a wounded being, and even someone who is wounded on a regular basis.


Movies I love (cf. Love Actually), tv I enjoy (cf. Gilmore Girls), books I read (cf. all the books in which a character is identified as dismissible or villainous in their fat body) all assault my heart. The woman on the street who screamed at me from her car–well, that wasn’t a microagression; I think that counts as just plain aggression, hatefulness, and fear combined with a sense of superiority.

If I never wrote about what hurts me, how would I write honestly?

If I never showed my face without makeup or smiles, how could I honestly invite others into Beloved Selfie Day each Monday in the Way of the River Facebook Community? (And I must say that I haven’t always done a great job of allowing myself to be truly seen there. I only took a “just woke up” picture and shared it quite recently. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, a little hypocrisy creeps in…) And how I look has a direct bearing on the kinds of microaggressions I experience–the stares and the looking away, the comments, and my own internalized fat phobia and ableism.

If I never wrote about microaggression and the experiences I have that are associated with it, I’d be a different kinds of writer. I just really can’t imagine it. It would mean leaving questions of justice, care, love, faith, and honesty behind. Then why do what I do?


The word “surrender” brings up a lot of things for a lot of folks. For me, thanks to Steve Mattus and Mark Silver and others at the Heart of Business Community, it brings up radical acceptance, a la Tara Brach and her brilliant book of that name.

Radical acceptance is simply recognizing what is. What is happening in this life. How can I experience it without telling a bunch of stories about what it means?

Similarly, in my ministry, surrender has often meant saying things that others might not say (but many would, let me be clear). Talking about all the things I mentioned in the last post, for example. Surrender is acknowledging that I hurt, even as I am hurting. Even as I am in the struggle. Even as I acknowledge that I have been dealt a hard hand to play. Not as hard as some folks, maybe, but a rough one. So for me to write honestly is to write about hurt. My calls to ministry and priestesshood have been, in part, about attending to what others need, how those needs connect to my own experience, and letting folks know you are not alone.

You are not alone.

And so I try to surrender to what is, what has been, what shapes me, and how I, as an infinitesimally small child of Earth and Starry Heaven embody this life. I try to accept without storytelling–and boy, howday, do I fail at that! But I try.

I try to pause.

I try to ask myself what a supervisor said, “WAIT” — Why am I talking?

I try to surrender, but not to collapse.


Collapsing is a whole other ball of wax.

One may cry on camera, weep gentle tears of pain, show one’s red-rimmed eyes, shake one’s fist in frustration, without collapsing.

Inappropriate collapsing happens when I try to make those I serve and whose container I hold bear the weight of the container for me. Inappropriate collapsing happens when I dump in, toward the people who are already hurting and look to me for understanding and sometimes guidance.

Collapse can happen, needs to happen in this life. But it needs to happen in intimate spaces. In spaces that are not held as containers for others. Collapsing is what I can do on Mondays in my therapist’s office. It is what I do for those who suffer by not heaping my grief on them, but rather talking about it to those farther out in the conccentric rings around grief and pain.

Sometimes, I/you just need to break down, no?

Sometimes, we need just to be held.

Still, one must be mindful of where one does this work of collapsing and rebuilding.

The Transformation

When caterpillars are busily becoming butterflies, they are in the soup. They become total mush along the way. Their bodies collapse.

But they are put back together into new forms. The forms the sip nectar, that reproduce, and that fly.

Collapsing is being very careful about how you share the soup phase of things.

Really, now that I think about it, it’s mostly just about being careful. It’s about pausing. It’s about asking myself my motives.

It is not only that I may preach, write, talk from scars. There are places that are wounded over and over again that need places to come out, and even some public places, even some helpful places.

But the question, Why Am I Talking? remains central. Why am I writing? Why am I preaching? How can I be helpful?

I don’t always hit this mark. Sometimes I hold back when bringing my “whole self,”as we like to say, would be more helpful. And sometimes I tell more than is useful, more than those who share my experiences benefit from.

I hope you forgive me when I miss my mark. I hope you will write to me and let me know. I hope you will tell me when the authenticity is helpful, that the question “Why am I talking?” has been answered well. And even more important, when it hasn’t been. I am learning. I am human, and I need your help in the gentle persistence of this ministry, this life.

Thank you for all you give to my ministry and work. You are essential, essential, to what I’m doing here. Bring yourself, and I’ll do my best to bring mine.


One Response

  1. Great distinctions of surrender, collapse and transform. I have held back on my collapse. I guess fear that the collapse won’t lead to anything but a bad tasting murky soup. Thx for providing distinctions that I had not had before.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.