By Soomee Kim, California-Pacific Annual Conference
No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak, for the patch pulls away from the cloak, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved. (Matt. 9:16–17 NRSV)
I awakened, as if from a dream, and realized that in many ways, I was cloaked. I was dressed in antiquated coverings, worn thin, torn, and needing renewal. I felt emptiness; I was yearning for the invigoration of new wine. Any vision for renewal needs guidance, and that requires an outstretched hand. Trustworthy resources help one choose untaken paths necessary to re-cloak and refill. I first thought the process required complete discarding, out with the old, in with the new. Wondering, my choices ran contrary to Jesus’ consultation in Matthew; I layered new fabric on the old garments of my image. Tears came again and again. I took time to mend, adding one piece of patch at a time. It took time to recall the wisdom of my mothers, artists of making quilts. Mending versus simply patching was difficult but surely effective.
Relying on patchwork and empty, unattended inner places led to tears and ruptures. Oddly, my cover-up ripped and insides opened in the process of responding to God’s call. Collateral, necessary damage would include a divorce, the outcome of shredded communication, shallow understanding and support, all amounting to irreconcilable differences after twenty-seven years of marriage. Changes affected my children and both families. Disillusioned, confused, broken open and overflowing emotionally, I was left in tattered pieces; I struggled to discover what, if anything, could be restorative. In the chaos God entered my circle of pain and provided an outfit and indwelling presence to tend to a Holy direction. Mending required a long, honest look into the eyes of my life and a survey of my choices and priorities. I turned to hold my children closer and sought consultation regarding my gifts and settings for their use. I was drawn to the light embodied by the examples of faithful women in the Bible. From their examples I found decisiveness, inspiration to leave entrapment; their stories convinced me God’s empowerment could smash structures that ensnare us. In them, I found faithfulness to break the rules so as to obey principles abiding in the heart of God. Sometimes, if we listen, and if we grasp the darkness faithfully, then we get a grip on the deeper why. I found mysterious, intuitive trust that brought from the pieces of ruptures and tears God progressively helped me discover a new wholeness.
I moved two thousand miles from California to the Midwest and Kansas City; I completed residency, then entered a training journey to become a clinical pastoral education (CPE) supervisor. I am learning now to be more honest about my needs and wants. I am trusting, not ignoring, my instincts. I am leaving the ways of “niceness” and pure accommodation. In CPE training, I met men unafraid to cry, strong enough to be weak and emotionally vulnerable, and women not reluctant to speak their minds and courageous to contradict. I am gaining a deeper appreciation for human “messiness,” mine and another’s. I can no longer hide times I really “sweat.” I can no longer present the graceful swanlike float, for others see me paddling madly underneath. I am learning to trust and to find places where it is safe to be vulnerable. It is okay not to know. I am learning to speak my mind, risk a loss of face, give the truth in love, and be gentle and tough simultaneously. I am learning the deeper meanings of “when we are weak, we are strong,” and “the first are last, and the last are first.” I know better now that humility is a sacred way of being divinely human, the other side of cloaking and emptiness, and how the path of upward mobility and desire to be right can separate us from who we are, from others, and from God.
Presently my process involves less patchwork but more mending, more restoration than repair. Transformations are inner and outer. One’s garment is the image one presents the world. One’s wineskin is the unfilled depths when, refilled, pique growing in new understanding, and enriched faith, both fulfilling. In grace and mercy God is suturing me in ways I can be more authentic. God is carving out inside me new space for the chemistry of faith passionately fermenting. My prayer now is that as I wrap myself in God’s renewed cloak, mended and darned, I may live each day in ways authentic and honest.
2019 – Unity in the Church
2018 – Claim Who We Are in Christ
2017 – Bodies, Oppression, and Gospel
2016 – Birthing a Worldwide Church
2015 – Clergywomen Lead Vital Congregations
2014 – Empowerment for All
2013 – What Next?
2012 – What Does the Lord Require of Us?
2011 – See, I am Doing a New Thing
2010 – Voicing Truth With Grace
PDF archive – 1987 to 2009
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WellSprings, A Journal of United Methodist Clergywomen, is published by the Division of Ordained Ministry, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
Editor: HiRho Y. Park
Managing Editor: Barbara A. Dick
Editorial Circle: Patricia Bonilla, Neelley Hicks, Anita Phillips, Jacqui Rose-Tucker, Trudy Hawkins Stringer