Crocheting in the Belly of the Whale
Thanks to a fine sermon I heard last Sunday, all week I’ve been commiserating with Jonah. The belly of the whale is the perfect metaphor for how I’ve been feeling—as though I’ve been called do something, to say something, but my brain is refusing to cooperate.
Here’s me as Jonah: white, heterosexual female—writer, Presbyterian elder, member of a “big-tent” church that welcomes LGBTQ people but isn’t yet comfortable addressing what full inclusion means.
Scene 1: Me trying to write with elegance and authority about LGBTQ inclusion in the church.
Jonah prayed while in the belly of the whale. He gave thanks and acknowledged that deliverance belongs to God, and then he got spewed out onto dry land. I no longer pray in the manner I was taught as a child. It’s “prayer” for me if I can just settle down and acknowledge the presence of a loving God.
Scene 3: Me still hunkered like Jonah, but crocheting now, settling down.
I’m crocheting a rainbow scarf to send to the General Assembly in June. I haven’t crocheted since the 70’s (granny squares!), so I’ve been following a tutorial on YouTube. It’s slow going, but I hope to finish at least one scarf by Easter.
I tug the multi-colored yarn from the skein, guiding it into the loops that catch hold and make a chain. As I work, the colors change and change again. It’s only one scarf. It’s only me here hunkered in the gloom of a wintry day. And yet it strikes me that this small effort on my part links me to something greater that shall not be broken. I understand now what they mean when they say we will “pray our way to the GA” this year. Though I will not be going to the GA, I’m praying my way—not with words but with a strand of yarn between my fingers.
I picture my scarf delivered to Detroit in June. I picture it on the shoulders of someone who is pleased to receive it. Meanwhile I keep looping the yarn around the hook, around the hook again. In time the work of my hands will take the shape of a blessing. I’m with you, I call into the future. Love is love, and surely the church will bless gay and lesbian couples in marriage, because God has already blessed them.
Scene 4: I write the above blog post. The End, I think. But wait . . .
Am I too comfortable with this picture I’ve just drawn of contemplative me, crocheting a rainbow scarf to send to the GA as a symbol of solidarity?
Where exactly is Nineveh anyway?
Could it be that Nineveh is the name of a boat I’m afraid to rock, the one holding the members of the church I love? Seated in that boat is an elder I served with on Session. A few years back this elder got wind that I was about to propose membership in More Light Presbyterians to our congregation. He took me aside to say that, though he respected me, he would fight against my proposal. Wouldn’t it be better, he asked, if we didn’t tear the church apart over this?
My hands shook, and my tongue turned to cotton. I smiled hard (he was, after all, a friend—still is.) And in the end, I “agreed to disagree” rather than rock that boat—which is to say I turned away, angry and frustrated, and did not speak to him about it again.
Scene 5: Still in the belly of the whale. Still thinking, crocheting, praying. Surely I’m not alone in here . . . Of course God’s here, but I’m talking about people.
If you’re in here, too, wouldn’t it be great if we could talk about it? I’ll make you a nice scarf. Maybe we’d end up on dry land together. Maybe we’d end up attending a wedding together. (Can’t help but dream the classic happy ending, here in the belly of the whale.)
Madeleine Mysko serves on the MLP Editorial Board. An elder at Towson Presbyterian Church (Towson, MD), she is a published writer of poetry, fiction, personal essays, and opinion pieces. She is the author of Bringing Vincent Home, a novel based on her experience as an Army nurse during the Vietnam War. A graduate of the Writing Seminars of The Johns Hopkins University, she has taught creative writing for decades. She is also a registered nurse, and presently serves at American Journal of Nursing as coordinator of the “Reflections” column, a platform for personal stories. Her service on the editorial board of More Light Presbyterians stems from a desire to use her gifts in calling the church to be an openly welcoming community, and in demonstrating to others beyond the church what “welcoming” really means.