While at a conference this week, I saw Donna Hester perform her Iron Apron Strings, an original theatrical piece written in reflection on the women listed in Jesus' genealogy in Matthew 1 (plus Eve). Hester's work centers in on each of these women in times of uncertainty, when they are struggling to make sense of the twists and turns of life. They're barely getting by, unable to discern their significance in the story of God which is breaking into the world.
Hester's interpretation of Rahab is especially captivating, not because of the monologue (which is well-written and well-performed), but because of the blocking (i.e. actions and props). Rahab describes her descent into prostitution - an occupation which morphes from "what you do" to "who you are." The monologue is gut-wrenching and heart-breaking. Yet, as Rahab unravels her tale of one hard knock after another, she irons a long cord of scarlet fabric. No mention is made of the destiny of that famous length of cloth - its presence is enough to evoke that fateful moment when it would dangle in her window as trumpets blew and Jericho's once sturdy walls shook (Joshua 2-6).
This image strikes a cord with me, as my graduation dates rapidly approaches. I'd like to think that maybe I'm ironing my own scarlet cord - holding in my hands, metaphorically speaking, something seemingly innocuous but that could be a tiny prop in the grand story of God which is unfolding in the life of the church. That may smack a bit of self-aggrandisement, but that's not my intention. The story in Joshua isn't centered around Rahab and her scrap of scarlet cord. It's about the action of God. Rahab happens to be in the right place at the right time, with an eye for the unusual, an imagination that can foresee an altered state of reality, and a willingness to dive in with whatever she has at her disposal even if it doesn't seem like much. She's an unlikely player... and an exemplary one - maybe that's why she also shows up in that long list of heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11.
Perhaps Rahab was also asked, "What are you going to do with that?!" Maybe, like me, sometimes her only response was a shrugging, "I don't know." But walking by faith, if Rahab is indeed an example of this, means carrying on in the midst of uncertainty and preparing for what currently seems unlikely or impossible.
To this end, I think I'm going to commit myself to a new discipline - a discipline that I will probably just allude to from time to time here. It's an unlikely one, one that will probably seem pointless and fruitless to many: I think I'll start writing sermons and practicing delivering them as a spiritual discipline.* Do I dare compare that to "ironing a scarlet cord" or building an ark?
* I think spiritual disciplines are best practiced in the context of community. Are there any of my female seminary friends out there who would like to participate?