This is Barb.
She is one of my favorite people in all the world.
I met her at seminary where it was my great good fortune to land in the same MTI as Barb. MTI, or Ministerial Theological Integration, is the class we seminarians were required to take in conjunction with our first internship year. So every Friday morning for a year, eight of us came together, sharing our stories of baby-steps into ministry, unpacking the path that had brought us here, and doing our own deep work. We did all this so that we might one day be the kind of ministers who bear healing out into the world rather than the kind of ministers whose own wounds get in the way—the kind of ministers who do more harm than good. In that class and in that wonderful first year of ministry, I learned to rely on God’s wide margins of grace.
It was good and life giving work—MTI—and thanks to Barb, it was also a raucous good time.
I have never laughed so much in all my life as I did those Friday mornings with Barb. Even as we faced the hardest truths of our lives, even as we stepped out into this new path and stumbled flat on our faces, even as we struggled with demons, with theologies, and with our own resistance, with Barb at our table we always found our way back to laughter, and through that laughter we found our way back to joy, to peace, to forgiveness.
There was another MTI group meeting next door to ours, and when we all shuffled out to get coffee during the break, the people from the other class (who all looked a bit beleaguered, truth be told) would look at us in wonder and say, “We heard you guys laughing—what in the world was so funny?”
They were jealous and I don’t blame them. Without that life-giving laughter, the work could be done, no doubt. But I imagine it wore those folks out. I, on the other hand, found myself emerging each week refreshed, restored, and ready to jump back in. I believe that God’s healing power was in our laughter, and that in that laughter we came to know ourselves more fully—we were loved, encouraged, nudged, and inspired.
That is how I feel today—nine years later—every time I am in Barb’s presence—loved, encouraged, nudged and inspired. She brings out the best in me, all the time loving me, even at my worst. She believes in me—even on days I’m not sure I believe in myself. She holds me in prayer, especially on days my own prayers won’t come. And always, always, she makes me laugh—side splitting, tears down the face, break me open to something good, something new laughter.