I just heard Marcus Borg died. It's hard to believe this brilliant man has left us. A gifted theologian and scholar, he has been my faithful spirit guide on a recent three-year deep dive as I revisited Christianity with grown-up eyes. Just last night, I rifled through the hundreds of books in my Kindle library searching for Marcus Borg's books that pushed me out the starting gate not long ago. It's both perfect and disturbing how sudden and strong the urge to revisit Marcus was that evening - which was unknowingly, the day he died. Thoughts of him had tugged at me for two weeks.
He was like a perfect lover, or merciful healer after a devastating heartbreak. So gentle with me as he carefully guided me back down the halls of Christian theology and understanding - after years of denial, avoidance, resentment, and pain. By the time I'd finished Borg's third book, I began referring to him as my spirit guide and continued to devour his words. Each book simmering within as I found my way. It was as if my thoughts could fly tandem with his, hanging on as my Christian identity reshaped itself and looked for a place to land.
I was in a hurry to land though - and I had a good reason.
When my college boyfriend headed off to seminary, I didn't marry him in lieu of an exciting and promising career of my own. My vision board in 1976 didn't include pastor's wife and master of the pot luck - pastor was not a realistic option in those days. I broke this perfect guy's heart and headed to Manhattan with my compass pointed towards Gloria Steinmen and Madison Avenue. Jesus was tucked nicely in my back pocket - as always, meeting me where I was. Although a great life and career followed, I was well aware what I'd forfeited to forge new trails. Recently, all these years later, I received a second chance with this old college boyfriend turned pastor - and didn't worry about a career this time. But I couldn't dive right in.
I had some work to do first.
I had to come to terms with unresolved frustration, hurt, and anger towards the Christianity I'd once loved - and culturally abandoned - after watching it's personality change into something I no longer recognized.
Marcus Borg became my spirit guide for this treacherous travel. He didn't know it though. I fantasized telling him when we finally met at a conference and chatted over a cup of coffee one day, or when I thanked him in the Acknowledgements of a book I'd someday write. I even went so far as to imagine his review on the jacket.
He started my healing process. Not because of his theology or his gifting with words - which were enormously inspiring and influential. Transformative even. It wasn't his liberal stance, which can sway anyone who's been hurt by the conservative right. Nope.
It was the thoughtful and honest way he shared his personal journey that moved me most.
Mr. Borg, you were my primary physician treating a wound I'd given up hope of healing a long time ago.
Your ability to scan the Christian landscape and reflect on scripture gave me the food I needed to make sense of Christianity again - without feeling like a lemming for one minute.
Thank you for sharing your personal journey and evolving faith as your understanding shape-shifted its way through life. You have been a great teacher - as you will continue to be.
Your words gave me the permission I needed to explore freely, speak honestly, and stand in my truth again. I did marry the old boyfriend and entered a conservative, legacy church at mid-life. My blind enthusiasm for the future overrode managing expectations. Here I found myself face to face with a board that resented the involvement of a pastor's wife - if she spoke or contributed. This stunned and hurt, particularly since my decades of professional experience were perfectly suited to grow a church - but time and again, you pulled me back up and filled me with courage for the next leg. You reminded me there were others beyond these borders. Even when I'd cry myself to sleep from feeling demoralized - I could open one of your books or visit your blog - and remember who I am and whose I am.
These reminders by way of your thoughts and words - only as far away as my Kindle - were a lifesaver as I embarked on this surreal new parsonage life - invisible and discouraged. Your words refueled my courage, giving me the space I needed to think and grow. Thank you for guiding me back home to a Christian world that made sense - and keeping me well nourished along the way.
I'm so sad we won't meet for coffee at a conference someday. The world has lost a beautiful and thoughtful man, and I thank God for the gift the world received in you. Happy Trails, dear spirit guide. I hope we meet again.
Love, Unruly Christian
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