Elizabeth Taylor died this past week. As you can imagine, we at Dirty Sexy Ministry hold Liz as one of the best examples of Dirty Sexy Ministry. She was quite imperfect, like all of us, but stepped forward with a prophetic voice for support of HIV/AIDS when most of the world, including our very own governments, dared not utter the word. Her marriages weren't exactly models of how to do commitment, but she kept trying. She was far from a saint, but never needed perfection as a reason to respond to others. And her scene in Cleopatra alone where she tells Mark Antony to kneel before her, saying, "I asked it of Caesar; I require it of you," is a moment that all who have ever been treated as an underling simply love. And she did it all with soignee.
Liz was many things, but shrinking violet was not one of them. People criticized her and tried to diminish her, but she lived her life anyway. In her own words, "Big girls need big diamonds."
I'm sure Liz said this quote with a hefty dose of literalness. After all, she was known for her diamonds. And sapphires. And pearls. And rubies and emeralds. We may not have a stash of precious jewels from the earth to wear around our necks and on our wrists, but we all do have a stash of precious gems from the heart of God. All of us have our big diamonds, our jewels within our souls that can gleam and glitter in the world - our gifts, our passions, our vocations. We all have jewels within our souls, those treasures that God has mined and entrusted to us. We are born with them, and our life experiences, our delving into the abyss where we stumble and recover the treasures of our life, give us access to them to share with the world.
We all have them, but many of us hide them, lock them in a safe, or pretend they aren't our jewels. Sometimes we do this because we are afraid of using them and losing them - our stuff to outgrow. But in recent conversations with clergy and laity who are women, I've become more and more aware of a distressing pattern - that we allow our diamonds to be usurped or diminished by others because we are fearful of repercussions. We have a splendid idea for a program or share our treasure to create holy space, and then allow it to be claimed by a superior or trivialized because, "anyone could have done it." We share our time and treasure within the community, and hear another clergy dismiss it as something that isn't as important as what he or she is doing in the community. Or we are not allowed to share our treasure at all, instead required continually to keep it locked in a safe because if we did break out the big diamonds, we fear attack.
From shared experiences, the fear of attack is genuine. Again, it's a distressing truth in the church and the world that a hefty number of superiors and peers are insecure about their own treasure, so they devalue the treasure of others. We all have that shadow within us, that our treasure isn't good enough. Some of us act out by devaluing others; some of us live it out by allowing our big diamonds to be buried.
Either way, nothing good comes out of this experience.
Those of us who haven't run the world for the past few thousand years, those of us who are women, minorities, gay, lesbian, bisexual, struggling with poverty, overcoming a disability, or whatever makes us less-than in the eyes of some, are inherently told by society that we don't need big diamonds. And through the years in my ministry, I've watched many of my fellow clergy who fall into the aforementioned categories diminish themselves so some else's fragile ego would not be deflated. I've seen them have their passions for ministry belittled, their program ideas usurped, and their accomplishments devalued. I've allowed it to be done to me. We learn from others that playing small to maneuver around other's insecurities is a right and good thing to do.
It's not. To quote from Marianne Williamson, "There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you."
Because a truth is that shrinking won't help someone who is insecure be more secure. It just makes us slowly fade away to feed their insatiable hunger of insecurity. God isn't into people fading away. God would rather we give ourselves room to shine with love. Another truth - there are a generous plenty of people who love to invite everyone to share their gems so that the shine and shimmer becomes greater for all of us. There are a generous number of places where we are required to wear our fabulous gems, and our stunning jewels are complimented, not envied, by these communities. There are, in fact, many places where big diamonds are de rigeur.
Because big girls have big diamonds, and God wants us to wear them, to let the sparkle of our deep gifts illumine the world. Liz managed to wear her big diamonds. When those would try to diminish her big diamonds because of their own insecurities, she wore them anyway. And so did a goodly number of women in the faith: Mary, Mary Magdelene, Rahab, Ruth, and Tamar, to name some of the real big diamonds in the crown.
So ladies, wear the big diamonds. And if people around you complain that the sparkle is too much, wear them anyway. And smile, because we were born to radiate God's love with our treasure.