This week at field-work-church*, God spoke to me. I have been cautious about the claim that an anthropologist should (and especially cautious about the claim that they do) make themselves open to being ‘converted’ to the way of life or beliefs of the people they work with. But there are moments in which I feel more malleable than others. This week was one of those moments.
The pastor was preaching from Genesis 15; Abram is starting to doubt God’s capacity to come through on his promise to make him a blessing and a great nation. Abram is afraid. When the preacher threw out the rhetorical question “What are you afraid of?” I knew the answer straight away – a looming PhD annual review, 20 thousand words and the feeling like it’s all slipping through my fingers. But God’s words to Abram rung true:
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”
I heard that promise for myself: “I am your exceedingly great reward“. I realised that even though I might not change up my church membership to join one of the churches or denominations I have been working with, God does speak to me through them. And it is God who is my exceedingly great reward and not academic acclaim; the great privilege of working with Christians from other traditions and being pushed to think about God in new ways is its own reward with or without the piece of paper I hope to get at the end of it all.
As a postscript, I feel like this process of letting/hearing/acknowledging God speak to me in a way that makes sense through my own theological lens makes me a bad anthropologist. And I don’t know what to do with that yet…
*My husband, son and I are members of a different local church, but I have been attending this church for about 6 months doing part-time fieldwork.