Every Sunday in worship, the pastor prays, but leaves a silence where you can say the name of someone on your heart. Like popping kernels the names jump up and die down.
For years I’ve been saying the name Kate Bowler. She was my professor. Before I moved away, I went to her office and asked how I’m supposed to lead as a woman — how I’m supposed to be taken seriously. She said, “You don’t need to wear business suits with shoulder pads.” I said, “Does that mean I should get rid of all the suits I just bought from Goodwill?”
Only months later, word got out that Dr. Bowler had been diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer – at the age of 35. I never knew how young that was until I reached my thirties. It’s young. It’s when you should be flourishing, finding yourself, falling in love with life.
So every Sunday morning I said, “Kate.” Because what else can you do? And she lived, and still lives. She’s, what, 37 now? Maybe 38? She’s still with her high school sweetheart, still watching their toddler boy grow up.
My church family prayed for Kate without knowing her. When I put her name on a prayer card, they mailed their heartfelt prayers. They surrounded someone they’d never met. They let me say her name out loud.
I’m beyond ready to read Kate’s new memoir, which I guess she wrote in between traveling to another state for chemotherapy treatments and trying to spot Jimmy Carter down the hall. But anyway. Just the title of her book says it all: Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved. It officially releases on Feb. 5. Order your copy here.
Or if you can’t wait, get a preview of her voice by reading her New York Times op-ed here.
And I’ll keep saying her name.