FSB Author Article
How THE WAY Came to Be
By Kristen Wolf,
Author of The Way
I wrote THE WAY because I had no choice. Its roots are deep and stretch all the way back to my childhood. In some ways I feel like I've been entertaining the story of Anna in my imagination since I was a very little girl.
As a child, I was raised in the Christian tradition. An eager and ready participant, I loved learning about the great and powerful mysteries I could feel all around, and above, me. And I loved the drama and sensuality of church and our celebrations. Yet as time went on, I began to feel a definite sense of being somehow excluded from the whole enterprise. After all, church leaders could only be male, our God was male, and the main player was the Father's only son.
Was there no place for me in all this? I remember wondering.
So one day, at age six, I did something to fix the situation: I carried my desk into the driveway, covered it with a white sheet, adorned the front with a red felt cross and, upon this makeshift altar, held "church" for a gathering of neighborhood children.
My impersonation of a priest caused quite a stir, as you can imagine. Yet, however amusing, this story encapsulates a child's powerful longing to carve a place for herself in the world of spirituality.
But guess what? It didn't work.
Life went back to the status quo. And for the next decade or so, I lived a kind of double life. In the first, I was a young person thrilled by the miraculous power of the world around me, inspired to seek the deeper meaning and purpose of things. Yet in the second, I was an apathetic practitioner of my religion. Just going through the motions.
Over time, I grew more and more bothered by what felt like a "boys club" to which I could not be admitted. And I vividly remember thinking it wrong that the people who seemed to most innately embody the ideals that Jesus upheld -- forgiveness, compassion, cooperation, nonviolence, respect for life -- were not being included, nor honored, in our endeavors.
(The same disparity holds true today. Survey any of our major religions and you'll find half of the world's population excluded from its imagery and leadership.)
For years, I didn't question the way things were. But when I entered college my youthful discontent would mix with a variety of influences: personal experiences,collegestudies with Jesuits, independent study of prehistoric cultures, mythology, ancient and modern spiritual traditions,and the leading-edge scholarshipthat had uncovered efforts throughout history to remove the feminine from the spiritual domain.
Having felt first-hand the negative effects of living under a religion that sets the male higher than the female, I decided to try and instigate change.
THE WAY, then, is my adult version of holding church in the driveway. It's my second attempt at offering up a tangible vision of spirituality that is more balanced and inclusive. One that includes and honors the true value of women and girls, in its imagery, leadership, and practice. And one where we might dare to imagine the possibility that a great spiritual leader could be a woman.
I'm hopeful that someday the possibility of this new spiritual world will arise. And while it's too late for the little girl in the driveway, it's not too late for my child. Or for the children yet to come.
© 2012 Kristen Wolf, author of The Way
Kristen Wolf, author of The Way, is a mother, writer, and filmmaker living in the Rocky Mountains. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Georgetown University and holds an M.A. in creative writing from Hollins University. This is her first novel.