Hiatus

Hello, friends and followers. I’m so terribly sorry.

Juggling grad school, marriage, adulthood, and writing proved more challenging than I thought. I’ve broken the cardinal rule of blogging, which is providing decent content and then stopping out of the blue.

I got overwhelmed by life. That happens.

I also got overwhelmed by my content of choice. That happens, too.

Update on my life: I am rapidly approaching the end of my graduate school career (yay!) and am trying to launch myself into a different career (aack!), which, hopefully, will involve a lot more dedicated writing time and time to read up on the subjects that interest me the most.

Update on my content of choice: it depresses me. It breaks my hear that there are people out there who think of women as lesser beings. Every time I see a headline about a woman killed by her partner or a little girl abducted and murdered or about the atrocities befalling women in ISIS-dominated territories, my heart gains another hairline fracture.

Yet I can’t shake the need to research and write about the topic that in the last few years has become so important to me and to many people I know and love–God and His kingdom purpose for His ezers.

Unfortunately all the time I’ve had to research, I’ve been researching for information to fill out the papers and projects necessary for the completion of my MA in English, nothing theological. But I want to get back into that as soon as I walk off the stage on May 5th, diploma in hand.

Thank you for your patience and your support.

Love to you all,

E.A.S.

 

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The Parable of Margaret Hamilton: Christian Women and Higher Education

You’ve probably never heard of Margaret Hamilton. You’ve probably heard plenty about Neil Armstrong, one of the first men on the moon, but there isn’t much said about his support system. Margaret Hamilton is the woman who sent him to the moon–and without her, he may not have come home again.

She was one of the founding fathers (ahem–mothers) of modern software. Without her brilliance and mad coding skills, software as we know it would not exist and those men may never have landed on the moon. She was working as a programmer at MIT to get her husband through law school when the Apollo program started. At the time, she had an undergraduate degree in math and a 4-year-old daughter she frequently brought with her to the lab. She was chided occasionally for abandoning her motherly responsibilities for the space program. The chiding stopped when America won the race to the moon.

Margaret had a natural aptitude for her job. This aptitude, properly tuned, allowed her to serve her country, her family, and the world. Though she worked in the background, her tireless effort drove a giant leap for mankind.

I read a post by a prominent Christian blogger bemoaning that Christian women are too focused on higher education and finding careers outside the home. Why aren’t they content with being mothers? Don’t they know God gave them ovaries, uteruses, and breasts for a reason?

Reading this post broke my heart a little. Sadly, her attitude reflects the attitudes of many in the church. While other teachers may couch this attitude in more flowery language and enforce the idea more subtly, they still hold that motherhood and housekeeping is the only appropriate calling for the Christian woman.

I won’t disparage housekeeping or motherhood in the slightest. Both are high callings. No mother is “just a mother.” Motherhood is hard, motherhood is important, and motherhood is beautiful.

But aspiring to motherhood does not free the Christian woman from the responsibility to develop the rest of her body. She has a uterus, ovaries, and breasts, true, but she also has a heart, muscles, and a mind. God does not owe the Christian woman a husband, nor is she guaranteed children. But she is born with talents, and burying those talents in a field is poor stewardship (Matthew 25:14-30) and cripples the church.

One of the primary tenants of the Christian patriarchy movement, as I understand it, is that men bear the responsibility to protect women. To protect women is noble and good, but the movement’s approach at protecting women–to discourage them from leaving the home, from getting a college degree, from working outside the home, or, in some scattered cases, even choosing their potential spouses for them–does not protect them, at least not for the long term.

The trouble with this element of Christian patriarchy is its short-sightedness: this “protection” does not protect women from the misogynistic attitudes inherited from the Fall, but perpetuates them. By discouraging the women of the church from going to college, working outside the home, learning marketable skills, or honing their God-given abilities, we are exposing the backbone of the church to a world of harm. Without either a college degree or certification in a specific field, a woman cannot support herself (and certainly not her children) in the modern economy. Proponents of Christian patriarchy insist that the primary responsibility to support a family falls on the shoulders of the husband or father. While that may be the case, a woman may never marry; her husband may die or leave her; her father may pass away or might have never been in the picture. A woman who is unable to support herself is especially vulnerable in a world programmed to belittle and demean her.

The best way for men to protect women is not to hide them from the world but to instruct their sons, colleagues, and friends that women are not property, sexual objects, or lesser beings, but human beings made in the image of God and who reflect His intelligence, His creativity, His wisdom. By permitting our daughters to discover their talents and use them for the good of others (and themselves) and the glory of God, we show a watching world the value of ezers and train future generations to value them, too.

Protecting a woman also includes putting the tools in her hands to protect herself in the present and the future. For this reason, higher education is vital for the Christian woman. Proverbs 31 shows us a woman with strong arms and a strong mind. Playing a supportive role neither demotes women nor removes us from the personal responsibility to sharpen our minds, to know the Scriptures like the back of our hands, to be articulate, to use reason, and to hone our God-given skills. We are ezer–helpers–soldiers. We cheat ourselves and our brothers  if we do not actively become the best we can be. One woman’s best may look different from another’s–that’s another post for another day. Regardless of our individual skills, we have a divine responsibility to shine His light as image-bearing ezers empowered by God.

Mary, Martha, and Theology

Ah, Mary and Martha. Where would Christian women’s literature be without them? Their tale is so brief, so easily digested, and their relationship with Jesus packaged into a seemingly simple dichotomy: Martha the workaholic, and Mary, the girl who stops to smell the roses. The moral of their story? Don’t be so caught up in working for God that you forget your relationship with God. Short, sweet, to the point.

The trouble is, many of us have bought the idea that “Marthadom” is the best path to “biblical womanhood.” Whether through implication or direct instruction, many women in the church believe that the only way to please God with their femininity is to run themselves ragged in the service of others. Stopping to study the word for longer than the usual thirty minutes in the morning before the kids wake up is simply not an option for the Christian woman. A woman who chooses to pursue a degree in theology is  considered odd at best. A woman who earns a PhD or writes books on theology is even more rare, and could possibly face a bit of opposition from peers or from family. After all, if she’s busy studying the Bible in a formal academic setting, she might not get married, have children, or participate in the church after the usual fashion.

In short, we are told to be Mary, yet expected to be Martha. We often expect Martha of ourselves.

I will not bash the women who have made the sacrifice of service in the house of God. We are to be each others’ servants as members of the Body of Christ. We are supposed to love each other more than we love ourselves (Phil. 2:3). I will not demonize servanthood, not when Jesus washed His disciples’ feet.

But we sell ourselves short when we assume that the serious, intense study of theology is for men only.

I know I have had this thought. If men are supposed to lead, as we’ve been told, and if men are supposed to preach, then women don’t need to study the Bible with great focus. After all, we’re too busy with other things, like making sure the house is clean (which is also very important).

Putting our personal responsibility to know the Scriptures on the shoulders of our leaders, expecting them to spoon the truth into our mouths, is the easy way out. And no Christian is called to the easy way out.

Jesus praised Mary for her hunger for knowledge. Martha was only doing what she had been taught to do–when she was growing up, her brother Lazarus might have gone to the synagogue to learn the Scriptures while she and Mary stayed behind to learn the maintenance of a home. But in His gentle reminder, He told His friend that the “good portion” was available to her as well. He did not bar his female friends from a deep knowledge of truth. The Word belongs to men and women both. We are all welcome at His table to eat and drink the magnificence of the Word.

Yes, work hard at whatever your calling is, and by all means serve your neighbors, but unless you take the time to know God’s Word, to sit at His feet and LEARN about Him, you’ll have no idea what you’re working for.

 

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Sisterly Advice

May I give you some sisterly advice?

My heart hurts for girls about my age. We get so many mixed messages; figuring out early adulthood is much harder than anyone ever told us it would be. Navigating the relationships we’re forming during this chapter can be touchy, even perilous. I hurt for my brothers, too–but I don’t share all of their experiences. Some things about being female are unique to us–whether these elements are societally driven or not, they exist, and they’re challenging.

I wish I could look every girl I know in the eye and tell them this:

I thought I heard the voice of God. It wasn’t. No matter how much I wanted it to be, it wasn’t.

He told me over and over again that our relationship was heaven-blessed. That we were destined for each other. He was kind at first, charming and handsome. It was easy to believe him at first.

Never mind my parents’ misgivings. Never mind my friends’ warnings. Never mind my own nagging sense that something about our relationship was horribly, horribly wrong.

“Don’t listen to them, Emma,” he’d say. “Don’t listen. They can’t possibly understand. They don’t have what we have. They’re just being stumbling blocks. Don’t let them get to you.”

Never mind that I had no peace.

At that time in my life I believed that the man I married would fit certain criteria–the itemized list I’d heard repeated ad infinitum as I grew up. He fit every item on the list–or at least he seemed to. He played the role of the Ideal Husband. He became what I thought I should want. At least until he thought I wouldn’t leave.

But when someone tells you to lay down the talents and abilities God gave you just to make him happy; when someone tells you to tune out that inner voice that keeps you walking in the light; when someone downplays your achievements and belittles your dreams; when someone uses the words of God to tell you lies–

Run.

Once he gets close enough, there’s no telling what damage he will do.

No man’s voice is the voice of God. A man may try to play God. He may try to convince you that he is the god of your corner of the universe.

He is not God.

Don’t let him try.

No one person can fulfill you. That is too tall an order for any human being. No one may demand superhuman strength from you while simultaneously demanding you put up with his flaws. Anyone who asks you to compromise your principles or bruises your conscience is not the partner you should choose for the rest of your life’s journey.

If you tell a boy that your relationship with Christ comes first, and he still shoulders his way between you and your Redeemer–

Run.

Run to the Rock that is higher than you. Listen to the still, small voice of the One who loved you enough to give up everything for your eternal joy.

Darling girl, walking the road of life with God alone is far better than braving that journey with the wrong person. You may fear being alone, but believe me when I say there are far more fearful choices.

Don’t be afraid to say no. Don’t be afraid to walk away.

That is my sisterly advice to you.

Given in love,

E.A.S.

So I Wrote a Guest Post

Tim Fall (of Tim’s Blog — Just One Train Wreck After Another) asked me to write a post about an observation I’d made on Twitter several months ago. I tweeted that I was confused by all the talk I’d heard about how hard early marriage is — yet, so far, mine hasn’t proven to be that difficult (knock on wood, right?). When does marriage become a challenge? And is it in fact as hard as everyone says it is?

You can find the post here.

To My Brothers (and Sisters) in the Friendzone

I’m about to tell you something that’s worth every penny you pay for it: the friendzone is exactly where you want to be.

(Side note: the heavy research behind these posts will have to move to a back-burner because of upcoming school projects. Degrees don’t earn themselves, otherwise I’d be in the library hunting for commentaries and/or reading The Second Sex instead of hunting for literary criticism on The Christmas Carol. Hence why this post is a rabbit trail.)

If you don’t know what “the friendzone” is–well, you probably do, just not by that name. “The Friendzone” is not a literal place but a state of being. The Friendzone is the state of the girl (or boy) you love…not loving you back.

Both men and women have experienced the Friendzone, but (at least in my experience) men tend to be more vocal about it. In context, a boy whose female friend has said no to his third request for a date will usually turn to his friends, sigh, and say something to the effect of,

“Man, I got Friendzoned,” (the verbified version of “Friendzone”). “This is so dumb. Nice guys always finish last.”

I’m sympathetic, I really am. I’ve been in the Friendzone. Several times. It’s annoying. In my mind, I was so perfect for the person I liked, but he kept going after all my friends.  My pride was hurt.

But there are underlying problems with bemoaning the Friendzone. Serious problems. There’s an equally serious problem festering at the root of the idea that “nice guys finish last” because “girls only go for jerks.”

Problem One: The Idea that You’re Entitled to be Loved by the Object of Your Affection

Yes, I understand. Unrequited love is tough. Very tough. But a person is a person, not a thing. A person is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). A person is made with a specific purpose in mind (Philippians 2:13, Psalm 138:8), a purpose that may or may not include you. People are not potential possessions.

By believing that somehow a person owes you love, you are ignoring their personhood. You may think you know what’s good for him or her (you) but might very well be wrong. If you’re a friend, keep being a friend. Respect the person’s free will and desires. After all, that’s what friends do.

Problem Two: The Idea that You Deserve a Reward for Being a Decent Person

I know that many of us grew up being handed trophies just for participating. Arguably, that worked in elementary school. But, at least from what I’ve seen, that doesn’t work in relationships. Any kind of relationship. Just because you are a nice person, or even just because you went out of your way to be nice to the person you like, doesn’t mean the girl (guy) owes you a date. Or anything else.

Of course you should be nice. Sometimes guys and girls both put up a front of jerkiness or flirtatiousness because they want to atrract someone, anyone. Still others alter their personalities to adapt to specific people they like, hoping the masks will be good enough. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER put on a front for the sake of being “attractive.” Please, please be who you are; please strive to be kind.

But don’t strive to be kind in the hopes of getting a date. Remember, we are to be kind for kindness’s sake. We are made in the image of God and God is love, therefore we as His children are to love even our enemies, to “do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back” (Luke 6:35). If we are to love our enemies without expecting any favors in return, then how much more should we love our friends and consider their wishes more important than our own (Philippians 2:3)?

It’s unwise to expect a cookie for being a nice person.

And even if you could, people aren’t cookies.

Problem Three: What’s so Bad about Being Someone’s Friend?

Full disclaimer: I’m 23 and only newly married. I don’t have a very deep well of wisdom to draw from just yet. Like I said, you’re getting what you paid for. But I will say I have had a few relationships, and I took careful notes as they faded away. And a lot of what I’m about to say has been passed down to me from my parents and grandparents and many other wise and experienced people in my life who know what’s up.

Healthy relationships are founded on healthy friendships.

My husband was in the Friendzone. I put him there. I did not want a relationship. With anyone. Ever. As far as I was concerned, Sam was in the Friendzone for good.

He knew that. And he was okay with that. We kept being friends. Then things happened. Then we got married.

We’re still friends. Married, but friends first.

Love is so much more than romance. Yes, romance is beautiful and fun, but it’s the friendship that fuels the flame.

The trouble with wanting the grand, breathtaking romance is that the romance comes with absurd expectations. You’ll be tempted to hold your significant other to a fanciful and impossible high standard. And you’ll be disappointed every time they tumble from the pedestal constructed from rom coms and Disney movies. Again, people are people. People are sinners. People make mistakes. People aren’t perfect, and the last thing any of us wants is a relationship where we’re expected to be perfect.

But friendship sees the imperfections and loves wholeheartedly anyway.

I don’t have a verse that will say all that for me. The Bible is not a book of dating advice. There aren’t many romance pointers outside of The Song of Solomon.

But take Christ’s relationship with His disciples. Jesus called them His friends (John 15:15). In fact, there are several places in Scripture where God calls His people His friends. He also compares His relationship with His people as that between a bridegroom and a bride (Isaiah 62:5). Friendship and love are not mutually exclusive ideas. We need to erase from our minds that being someone’s friend is somehow a demotion. God doesn’t seem to think so.

If you are in the Friendzone, you’re sitting on prime real estate. If nothing else, you have a wonderful person as a friend, and that is something to be thankful for. And please, oh please, keep being nice. Keep being kind.

I hope I haven’t come off as patronizing. That’s the last thing I want, but sometimes tone is hard to communicate through a keyboard and a screen. I want to look you in the eyes and tell you it will all turn out alright.  I, too, know what it’s like to hurt and wait and wonder. I know what it’s like to desire someone and to be disappointed. But please believe me when I say “He makes all things beautiful in His time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

The Gospel of Eve

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.  Genesis 3:15

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law…  Galatians 4:4

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.  Isaiah 7:14 

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).  Matthew 1:23 

For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Romans 5:17

There, I saved you some time and put all the important stuff at the top of the post.

This will be short. This post will be a short observation inspired by a sermon I heard today. This post, like most of my posts, is not comprehensive or fully formed.

The observation is this:

Both genders are crucial to the existence of the Gospel.

From the moment of the first sin, Adam and Eve knew that there would be Someone coming to right their wrongs. God told the Serpent, Satan, that he and the woman would be enemies, and her offspring would be responsible for his downfall. Not Adam’s offspring. Eve’s.

The prophecies about the coming Savior frequently emphasized that He would be born of a virgin. A woman who had never slept with a man. He would be brought into the world without a drop of Adam’s blood, but “born of woman.” Immanuel–God with us–would take the body of a man, but would not be a man’s child.

Yet this boy, Jesus, would be a second Adam. By Adam’s fall, we sinned all, but it would be through Eve, a Son born of Eve’s distant daughter, that all men could be saved.

God had a redemptive purpose in creating male and female in His image. Remove one or the other from the picture, and the redemption story collapses.

Of course, God could have brought a Savior to the world any way He wanted to. But He chose Mary to carry Christ, who could stand in Adam’s place for all our sakes. He chose to use both male and female to bring about the greatest reality of human history: Christ’s redeeming sacrifice.

That’s all I have for now.

Of Princesses and Queens

What does it mean to be a woman writer in a culture whose fundamental definitions of literary authority are, as we have seen, both overtly and covertly patriarchal? If the vexed and vexing polarities of angel and monster, sweet dumb Snow White and fierce mad Queen, are major images literary tradition offers women, how does such imagery influence the ways in which women attempt the pen?

–Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar

In their co-authored essay, “The Madwoman in the Attic,” prominent feminist literary theorists Gilbert and Gubar elaborate eloquently on a theme mentioned over and over again by the women who came after them: women are rarely represented accurately in any male-dominated medium.

Gilbert and Gubar observe a disturbing pattern in all acclaimed literature. The female characters lack any depth beyond their capacity to reflect well (or poorly) on the male leads. Women in the novels they reference are of two categories: angels and demons. There is no in between. A female lead is either a flawless goddess of beauty and morality or the Wicked Witch of the West. Because, Gilbert and Gubar explain, that is how men see women. One or the other. There is no gradient.

They also fear that this unfair representation of women in literature will trap female readers into believing they have no choice but to be an angel or a demon. Female writers especially will be trapped into perpetuating this pattern in their writings, which of course will never be taken seriously by the male elite who govern what is “good” and what is “bad” as far as literature is concerned.

They have a point.

It’s very frustrating, as a woman, to watch movies sometimes. When I go to a theater, sometimes I find it helpful to leave my opinions at the door to enjoy a film’s plot, particularly an action film, and pick those opinions up for the film review that will happen in the car ride on the way home. It’s frustrating to watch, time and time again, a woman be thrown into a film for decoration only. And then occasionally when I’m delighted by a film with strong female protagonists, I’ll hear someone complain that the movie made the male lead look superfluous and that’s not fair.

Must be tough.

The same plague haunts modern entertainment that haunted the Victorian novel. A woman who falls from her pedestal may never rise again.

I see that plague lifted in the Bible.

The women in the Bible are as diverse as the women I see every day. They all have different backstories, different motivations, different strengths and weaknesses. A woman with a huge family (Leah), a woman who struggled with infertility (Hannah), a woman who oversaw armies (Deborah). I see women in loveless marriages (Abigail), and women with loving husbands (the Shulamite girl). I see female entrepreneurs (Lydia), women who gave their all for others (Tabitha), women who risked their lives for strangers (Rahab), and women who risked their lives for their countrymen (Esther). I see women who were prophets (Anna), women in places of authority (Miriam). I see a woman who worked hard to provide for herself and those she loved (Ruth). I see a woman who was not taken seriously when she told the truth and later proven to be right (Rhoda). I see a woman scorned by men for doing the right thing but praised by Christ Himself (Mary).

I see hopeful women, desperate women, angry women, mourning women, laughing women, praying women, gentle women, clever women, proud women, careful women, busy women, bookish women–imperfect women. Women presented to us with both their virtues and their flaws. Their mistakes are not ignored, but we see them at their best as well.

And as I read through the Bible and note the women I see, I notice that any woman listed by name (Mary) or moniker (the Wise Woman of Proverbs 31) is never used as a garnish. The Bible may call a woman beautiful, but she is never just eye candy. Her role is purposeful and her personality is distinct. And without them, the Book’s plot would never get anywhere.

As I read the Bible from a literary point of view, I read of a wealth of role models. They are neither angels or demons, though occasionally I meet princesses and queens. They are human beings with flaws like mine, dreams like mine, and strengths like mine. I see their lives and know that I am not alone.

God loved them. And He loves me.

And I will pick up my pen and write about them.

Like a Girl

Our living situation allows my husband and I to walk back and forth to work. As we were walking home for lunch the other day, we had to run across the six-lane road between where we work and our apartment building. As we were running, I heard my husband chuckle and say

“You run like a girl.”

I immediately got defensive.

“You’d run like a girl, too, if you were wearing a pencil skirt and these shoes and had to carry a purse and–”

“Hey,” he said, cutting me off, “I didn’t say that was a bad thing.”

The company Always ran a campaign for a while with the hashtag #LikeAGirl. The campaign kicked off with a video of teenagers and children (both male and female) being asked what it meant to do something “like a girl.”

A little boy who was asked to “throw like a girl” imitated limply tossing a ball, only to have it land at his feet. He was then asked if, by doing that, he was insulting his sister.

“No! I mean, yeah, insulted girls, but not my sister.”

A girl about the boy’s age, when asked the question “Is ‘like a girl’ a bad thing?” responded with “I don’t know if it’s really a bad thing or a good thing. It sounds like a bad thing. It sounds like you’re trying to humiliate someone.”

A major complaint among women is that male attributes are accepted as the norm, while female attributes are a deviation from the norm. Women have been described as “too emotional” (compared to men), “irrational” (compared to male thinking patterns), or “too compassionate” (instead of thinking “practically” or “realistically” about situations or people).

What’s even worse–at least, to me–is that the things that women are really good at, such as being moms, being aesthetically sensitive, being relational, and having high emotional intelligence, are treated as lesser skills and secondhand gifts. Not just by men, but by women.

Now, the last thing I want to do in this post is make a lot of sweeping generalizations about my fellow women. No two women are alike. Some women love hunting, others love sports, some love politics, some are aspiring chefs, artists, teachers, presidents. Some of us aren’t very social or relational, and some of us don’t consider ourselves to be “mom” material.  I can’t say “all women are like x” because, frankly, all women aren’t. There’s not a mold somewhere. The stereotype fails most of us. There are several attributes of womanhood that most of us share, however, and I’ll be discussing those here. Speaking as one who has never really fit the “girl mold,” I want to add this caveat for others in my audience who don’t, either.

There are few things worse than being mocked for being what you were designed to be.

So let’s go back to Genesis again, shall we?

Man and woman both were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). That means that men and women both share His attributes.

I’d like to spend more time studying what the Bible says about God’s “gender,” if He can be said to have a gender. He refers to Himself consistently as a “he,” but also reminds us that he “is a Spirit” (John 4:24) and not a human being. My initial conclusion is that God is not male or female, but both and then some. I haven’t delved enough into that area to anchor myself to that thought permanently, but that’s what I conclude from God defining Himself as a spirit.

But what cannot be ignored about how God refers to Himself is how He frequently gives Himself uniquely female descriptions.

I talked about His ezer-hood last week. That’s an important consideration, but ezer can easily apply to men as well. What’s interesting is how God makes a point of describing Himself using terms that can apply to women alone–those of motherhood.

  • Isaiah 66:13: “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”
  • Isaiah 49:15: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”
  • Matthew 23:37: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.

While there are plenty of attributes of God that could easily apply to both men and women–strength, wisdom, gentleness, etc,–in these and other verses, God compares Himself to women in and element of their nature that excludes any possibility of “maleness.” Men can’t bear children. Men cannot experience what it’s like to nurse a baby with their own bodies. In God’s mind, there is no greater means of explaining His deep, unshakable compassion for His people than to compare Himself to a mother.

Later posts will dwell on other ways God is feminine (there are plenty). How He’s compassionate. How He’s aesthetically sensitive. How He’s relational. How He has the highest possible emotional intelligence. The thoughts that come most immediately to my mind are these:

If God acts as a mother, how dare we think motherhood is degrading?

If God is compassionate, how dare we think that compassion is foolishness?

If God authored emotions, how dare we belittle those most in tune with their God-given emotions?

If God is a helper, how dare we think being a helper is second-best?

If God made us in His image and His likeness, how dare we treat those divine traits He granted women as weaknesses?

If God made women in His image and identifies with women, how dare we treat female characteristics as somehow being of less importance?

These are half-formed thoughts. Formed out of sadness when I hear women criticize themselves for being what they are. As my husband told me, there is nothing wrong with being “like a girl.” In fact, being “like a girl” is pretty fantastic.

And, at least from what I’ve found so far, I think God would agree.

“Helpmeet” Is Not a Word

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
 Genesis 2:18, KJV

Having grown up in a Christian environment, I’ve heard the non-word “helpmeet” tossed around a lot. Not at home so much, but occasionally in church and a lot in popular Christian literature. There are whole books on how to be the best possible helpmeet, or how to prep to become one. “Helpmeet,” loosely translated, means “wife.” Its origins lie in the King James translation of the Bible, where it appears as two separate words. Flipped into a more modern syntactical order, the verse would read “meet help.” “Meet” (also loosely translated) means “fitting” or “suitable,” which is how most other translations of the Bible put it.

This non-word has always bothered me. I didn’t resent the word, exactly, but I always felt as if it didn’t fully capture what God meant. The Bible, after all, wasn’t written in King James English. It wasn’t written in English at all. It was written in Greek and Hebrew. And “helpmeet,” while cute, didn’t seem to encapsulate all that my mother was as a woman, or any of the wonderful women I knew growing up.

Turns out, I was right.

The Hebrew word at the root of the translation “help” or “helper” is ezer (pronounced ay-zer). Ezer is a beefy word that shows up 21 times in the Old Testament. It appears twice in the Bible in reference to women, and both times to Eve (Genesis 2:18 and 20).

The other 19 times are references to military strength. In Isaiah 30:5, Ezekiel 12:14, and Daniel 11:34, the word is used to refer to the armies Israel looked to for help.

The last 16 refer to God Himself.

(I am pulling my research from an excellent book called Lost Women of the Bible by Carolyn Custis James. This Bible scholar has produced several books on the subject of women in the Bible, and has written far more eloquently than I ever could. I am no scholar, so I must depend on those with an education in Greek and Hebrew to do some of the linguistic digging for me. My dear fellow Christian women, if my travel notes don’t answer your questions, please go read her books. Side note over.)

Yes, God calls Himself an ezer. A very strong help. Ezer was not intended, it seems, to evoke images of docility and subservience. Ezer carries with it the connotation of military might, of power, of an unstoppable force. An ezer is a warrior of incredible strength.

And this is the word God used to describe Eve. No, the word is not a mere description: ezer is what she is. Ezer is what all women were created to be.

I know far too many women who think they can only be a “help meet” once they are married. That ezerhood is only hers once that ring is on her finger. Too many women wait, and believe God wants them to wait, to live their lives until they are attached to someone in marriage. There is nothing wrong or degrading about marriage–marriage is pretty fantastic. But if Eve was an ezer, then every woman is born an ezer. As Custis James put it, “Marriage is one major area where the ezer stands with man in battle. It by no means exhausts the possibilities” (Custis James 37).

When God wrote of women for the first time, He called them strong. He gave them the same name He calls Himself when He refers to His own unlimited power. He made woman to be a warrior, the kind of person you’d want to watch your back in a tight spot.

The non-word “helpmeet” doesn’t cut it.