I had been thinking about buying a robe because now I participate in worship leadership most Sundays and the seating arrangements require that I exercise great decorum in my posture. A little more cover would give me a little more leeway. But I have wondered whether such attire would be presumptuous. Some of my friends wear robes all the time when they preach; some never. I wasn't sure.
But ~ my best friend at seminary wanted me to help her look at the robes on sale in the bookstore, and we had just been in class discussing Calvin and preaching, and it seemed like it might be all right to try one on.
I was startled when I looked at myself in the mirror. "That is not me," I said. I have no idea who I am anymore, but I was pretty sure that I was looking at someone else.
"That is EXACTLY you," said my friend.
"The style is called Anna," I mused. "That might be me. I feel like a very old woman, and Anna would be a good model. I wonder what the design on the sleeves and hem means."
The saleswoman found the Womenspirit catalogue for me, from whence comes the photo, and my friend and I read it out loud:
"Anna has an inset of our beautiful Crossroads embroidery around the hem and the sleeves. The Crossroads has much symbolism in Christianity and in the myths of many cultures. The cross has four extremities. The four points symbolize the four corners of the earth or the four winds-North, South, East and West. The center is the "Here", that place in which all things meet, and from which all things are possible. The inner circle behind the cross is the earth and the outer circle symbolizes eternity. "
"I told you," said my friend. "That robe is exactly you."
"It's perfect," said the other two women in the store.
My friend tried on several possibilites and, as we walked back to the main building after making our purchases, she told me that she, too, had wondered about her presumption in buying a stole in Israel two years ago, only a few months after we had begun seminary. One of our professors assured her that her purchase was a sign of conviction and hope.
I haven't felt much in the way of conviction or hope in a very long time.
I had just been talking in class about what it is like to move forward in response to God's invitation when belief and feelings are light years apart ~ something that I am sure most pastors experience somewhere in their ministerial lives, although probably not usually at the beginning. Most pastoral careers are not immediately preceded by catastrophe.
And now I have a robe, a robe named for an old woman who had seen almost everything and then, finally, saw and proclaimed what she had been waiting for. A woman of conviction and hope.
Who is that woman in the mirror? I wonder.