This is a Love Letter – Maija Mikkelsen, M.Div. student LSTC

Dr TWe are now nearing an end-game with the Senate hearings for Judge Kavanaugh. However it turns out, the impact will be jarring, and so I was most blessed to hear the following poetic reflection from a student at my seminary – Maija Mikkelsen – taking Paul’s body metaphor in 1 Corinthians 12-26 as her inspiration. So as the country prepares for what is to come, please read this poem, share this poem, and know that you are deeply and fully loved by God.

Rev. Dr. Linda E. Thomas – Professor of Theology and Anthropology, Chair of the LSTC’s Diversity Committee, Editor – “We Talk. We Listen.”


 

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This is a love letter to Miriam, who led her people out of exile in Egypt.

This is a love letter to Ruth and Naomi, who cling one another in great devotion.

This is a love letter to Esther, who risked her life for a moment such as this.

 

This is a love letter to my mothers, my sisters, my aunts.

To my nieces, who are just getting started in this world.

To my friends and my neighbors and my classmates and my colleagues.

 

You, strong and resilient women and femmes,

who grasp each other tightly against the toxicity of this world.

You, who were all created in the image of God,

who makes all things, and sees that they are good.

—-

 

This is a love letter to the Egyptian slave, Hagar.

This is a love letter to Dinah and Bilhah and Zilpah.

This is a love letter to the unnamed Levite Concubine woman.

 

This is a love letter to the woman who is afraid to walk to the store alone at night.

To the femme who decides not to wear their favorite heels today.

To the man who is too ashamed to tell his story.

To the one who wonders, “does my story count?”

To the survivors who are not believed, who are silenced.

This is a love letter to the brave and the terrified,

to the loud and the quiet,

to the ones who speak up and the ones who cannot.

This is a love letter to all of those who have been affected by sexual violence.

Because #MeToo.

 

You are not alone in your suffering,

for as you suffer, we suffer with you, Christ suffers with you.

You are believed by Christ.

Your story matters.

You matter. You are loved.

——

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This is a love letter to Leah, forced to marry a man who did not love her.

This is a love letter to Jezebel, strong and defiant, whose masculinity threatened the men around her.

This is a love letter to Jael, who shed the role expected of her and became a warrior for her people.

 

This is a love letter to the ones who thought they were loved only to find out they were objectified.

To the 28th trans person whose body

was murdered and destroyed out of hatred and misplaced fear.

To the young girl who takes justice into her own hands, saving herself from her abuser.

 

You, my dear ones, you are holy and loved.

Your God bleeds alongside you, knows your pain, and promises you resurrection.

 


 

 

 

This is a love letter to Tamar, who creates her own understanding of righteousness.

This is a love letter to Ruth, takes it upon herself to initiate an intimate night.

This is a love letter to the women who are told that to be prude is not a choice,

yet to be sexual is not a choice either.

To the virgin bride, ashamed and frightened on her wedding night.

And to the lovers who hold each other’s naked bodies,

blissfully falling asleep after knowing each other intimately.

 

Your bodies are made for feeling deeply.

Your legs bring you to the highest summits,

Your minds paint the most beautiful pictures,

Your mouths sing the sweetest songs,

Your backs arch in ecstasy as your fingers grip the sheets.

God made you so, and saw that this is good.

——-

This is a love letter to Eve, who walked through the Garden naked and unashamed.

This is a love letter to Mary, the mother of Christ.

This is a love letter to Mary Magdalene, who witnessed and was not believed, who loved Jesus the Christ and who was loved right back.

 

This is a love letter to the bodies torn asunder in birth. And the souls shattered at loss.

To those across the world who bleed and bleed and bleed.

To those who stand in the mirror convincing themselves that they are worthy of being wanted.

To those who starve and purge themselves in an effort to feel accepted.

To those whose bodies are stolen from them and dragged through the streets.

 

Your bodies are good and whole.

Your bodies that cannot see, hear, or walk are good and whole.

Your black and brown, thick and thin, curvy and straight bodies are good and whole.

Your bodies that exist here in this world. With all their parts and uniqueness.

Your bodies are good and whole and part of the great body of Christ.

—–

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The Incarnate One has become just like you,

because you are chosen by God and because you are loved.

 

Before Jesus was at the Jordan River,

he was baptized by his mother’s blood,

coating him with a carnal love as he made his way into this world.

 

Before Jesus fed the five thousand with loaves and fishes,

Mary nourished him from the warm milk of her breast.

 

Before Jesus cast the demons out from the afflicted,

Mary held him and comforted him in his fears.

 

Before Jesus healed the bleeding woman,

Mary tended to his cuts and scrapes with tender care.

 

Before Jesus rose from the tomb,

Mary Magdalene held vigil by his pierced and lifeless body.

 

Jesus lived in a human body. Jesus was human.

God came into a human body because human bodies are good.

—–

This is a love letter to all of you,

This is a love letter to all of me,

For we are all one body,

together and necessary and good,

in Jesus the Christ.

Jesus the Christ who became human,

Became ordinary –

Just like you and me

Not in order to make us sacred,

But because we are already sacred

You, my beloved, you are sacred.

Amen.

*original art – “Ruth’s Heart,” Hilary Sylvester / “Tiara and Eve Marie,” Kate Hansen.


43160331_170448727170143_9121484735304957952_nMaija Mikkelsen is in her third year of studies for her Masters of Divinity at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. She works to serve refugee populations both here in Chicago and in Rwanda, while working towards a career in pediatric chaplaincy. Fueled by the women around her, mothers, aunts, sisters, nieces, and friends, she seeks to live a life filled with love, honesty, and art.

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11 thoughts on “This is a Love Letter – Maija Mikkelsen, M.Div. student LSTC

  1. As a man reading this I was overwhelmed by the beauty and the power of your words. And I thought of the women that I knew some in my own family who were violated by men and who suffered in both silence and shame. Thank you. Your words were not lost on this male body.
    Kenneth W Wheeler

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Paul

    So wait. Jezebel is someone to look up to for women? Didn’t she lie about someone which caused him to be put to death. Fabricated evidence. Yeah, thinking she’s not someone to look up to for women.

    Like

      1. Dan

        But it’s an off-the-charts level of irony for a blog called “We Talk We Listen” to stifle a comment rather than engage with it.

        Like

  3. Dan

    I suppose it did meet that remedial definition of engagement. You noted (or assumed?) a commenter’s gender identity but didn’t delete their comment. Let me revise to “meaningfully engage” or “substantively engage in a way that facilitates conversation.”

    What would possible actual engagement entail? I don’t know … reading the passage in question in 1 Kings and offering an interpretation? Bringing in the author and asking them how Jezebel despite being seen as a blasphemer and idolater by the Church is actually someone worth emulating? Or, maybe we shouldn’t read that much into and it and women in Scripture were listed regardless of their virtue as a way of saying we should pay attention to them?

    Then Paul could respond and we could, per the phrase, talk and listen.

    As it is, the conversation was shut down and an opportunity left unexplored.

    Like

  4. Marvis

    This poem was absolutely beautiful and very inspiring. Thank you for your well chosen words.
    It’s always interesting how women are judged so differently than men, not only in the Bible, but also within our society. I say this in reference to the Bible stories of women specifically because generally the stories of the women in the bible are not told in their entirety. We only get fragments of these women lives, only the part the writers (and editors) have deemed important to the story. However, we don’t know the details of these women’s lives. Often we are not even given their names; like the Levites “concubine” in Judges 19:26-29, cut into twelve pieces by a group of men and left at her father’s door step to die. Or the Samaritan “woman at the well” in John 4:1-26. Like the woman called Jezebel in 1 Kings 18, we do not know the full story of the lives of these women. We only know they were added to the text to make some point, possibly about women, possibly about the culture of the times and undoubtedly to tell us something about our God. But we do not know their stories or anything about the pain and joy in their lives, or, if they were in fact real people.

    However, most celebrations of these women are based on their very presence in the biblical text. For their presence affirms the significance of women in biblical and church history. After the vilification of Eve as the progenitor of original sin, women have been treated poorly by theologians and historians. The downfall of all humanity has historically been attributed to the act of a single female: Eve. And for centuries women have been disrespected and denigrated. So, it’s not surprising to celebrate the women characterized by the same group that began the whole vilification process because we know that despite their patriarchy, they needed the character of these women to tell their story, and/or to make their point. Noted Professor/theologian/feminist Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza sums it best when she writes; “The Christian marginality of women has its roots in the patriarchal beginnings of the church and in the androcentrism of Christian revelation.”(1) So it’s important to lift up the lives of women who have been marginalized, oppressed and unduly relegated to secondary human status. Schussler goes further, by adding that: “Intellectual neutrality is not possible in a historical world of exploitation and oppression.”(2)

    The problem here becomes quite clear when we look at what we do know about the men celebrated in biblical text. We need look no further than Cain and Moses, both murderers, David the adulterer, Abimelech the butcher, just to name a few. These men are all celebrated characters in scholarly commentaries and journals. Yet, lifting up Jezebel as a woman whose known story may not be her whole story is deemed inappropriate. And finally, I would like to defer summation of my comments here to the lyrics of Michael Jackson’s song Man in the Mirror. The lyrics include the words” “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make a change.” Are you listening?

    Endnotes:
    1. Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins, Crossroads, NY, 1992.
    2. Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Bread Not Stone: The Challenge of Feminist Biblical Interpretation, Beacon Press, MA, 1984

    Like

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