Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Week One

Title: On Becoming a Woman of the Word: Proverbs 31

Author: Vida Christy Logan

Welcome

As a young collegiate woman steeped in the radicalism of womanism, feminism and

all those other –isms, my identity as a Christian woman was deeply challenged. In my mind, who I was becoming as a young woman was at odds with who the predominately male preachers were tell me I was in Christ. I felt they were instructing me that somehow, my desire to be educated and successful in a career should somehow be secondary to my role as a mother and a wife. Of course I had lots of questions, such as: What if I should decide to never get married? What if I did not want children? What does my sexuality mean to me personally? Is sex only part of me when I am married and decide to have children? This last question would start the round robin back to the original question, what if I decide to never get married. So, although the toughness of the Holy Spirit never allowed me to denounce the Lord Jesus Christ as my savior, I can tell you, we definitely had our moments of struggle and debate.

During this time of questioning, I was reading everyone—bell hooks, Maya Angelou, Angela Davis, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison. I was also reading, Gertrude Stein, Susan Faludi and Betty Friedan. In my heart, I knew my role would be empowering women. The call over my life would involve uplifting women from the various depths of oppression. But, I tell you, I was becoming increasingly politically at odds with my religious predilections. My politics was challenging my religion; my religion was challenging my politics. My understanding of self was complex. I was confused. In my confusion, in graduate school, I began to really read the Bible.

As an aside, its interesting how we will force our children to attend church, coax them to become saved, and yet all the way through this religious indoctrination, we will never expose them to the Word of God first hand, through The Book. We may even buy them a Bible, but we will never sit down and read it with them. And, yet, it is through reading first hand the witness of God that we are able to gain understanding. Perhaps if I’d been brought up actually reading the Word of God, instead of hearing about it, I would not have delved into such a pit of confusion and despair over my love for Christ. Okay, but, I digress.

I really got into reading the Bible during this time in my life. Instead of assuming the world was right, and my religious upbringing was wrong. I prayed that I would find truth and the wisdom to understand it.

Proverbs 4:7 Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

Proverbs 7:4

Say to wisdom, "You are my sister," and call understanding your kinsman;

My religious life began to blossom. As my spiritual life deepened, the Word was allowed to speak Truth into my heart. I found that it takes wisdom, as well as knowledge and intelligence, to understand the Word of God. It takes faith to activate what becomes known to the heart.

What did this do to my training as a womanist, a feminist, a scholar of the history and literature of women? It really drove me to my knees to say the least. But, the Bible just came alive to me at this point. Open to me were the words and character of women unlike I’d ever heard preached or taught from the pulpit. This is not to say that the predominately male preachers I’d listened to were wrong, per se. It is to say that they were not inclining an ear with a feminine heart. I am recalling how Hannah (1 Samuel 1-2), the prayer warrior, was thought to be drunk by a male priest of the Synagogue as she poured her heart out unto the Lord. In all fairness, it would be difficult for the male preacher/teacher to be able to teach by inclining the feminine ear and eye to the Word.

Why?

Well, because they do not have a feminine ear nor a feminine eye. They do not have the female experience that would allow them to glean out of the text the words that would encourage and teach the coming of Christ from the feminine perspective. Like Hannah, when I am down in the depths of my own hurts and pains, I need to be ministered to by someone who has empathy for my experience.

Even her husband, Elkanah, bless his heart, could not understand her pain. He said to her, “Why are you grieving? Am I not more to you than ten sons?” She rose from the table where she sat with her husband and went straight to the Lord in prayer. After a time in prayer, the Word says, the Lord remembered her, and she became pregnant. Do you know what she named her son? Samuel, the Lord Heard.

That is what I found when I read the Bible for myself. I found that there were women who were heard of God. I learned that there were women in the Bible who have suffered exactly as I had, who have celebrated just as I had, and they had a God who actively heard them with empathy and compassion. Isaiah 54:6 says, “For the Lord has called you like a woman forsaken, grieved in spirit, and heartsore—even a wife [wooed and won] in youth, when she is [later] refused and scorned, says your God.” (AMP)

I have written this study to impress upon my sisters the need for us to be close to the Word of God. I have written this study to demonstrate the intimate relationship between us, sisters, and the Word of God. I have written this study that you might be excited about what God has in mind specifically for us women. Finally, I have written this study to set us free from believing that the only intention God has for us, was to have been created second to Adam in Eden. We have a relationship all our own, and He is there and big and ready to remember us.

Isaiah 54:10

For though the mountains should depart and the hills be shaken or removed, yet

My love and kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace and completeness be removed, says the Lord, Who has compassion on you.

Prayer:

As we move into our time of study together, I pray that our hearts be opened and renewed at the wonder of your Word. I pray that a new found intimacy with the Christ Jesus be found as we travel toward becoming the woman He intended us to be. Lord, we recognize that you made us. Lord, we recognize that for your pleasure, you have given us a meaningful life. Lord, we pray to fulfill your desires for our lives, as we begin to understand who we are in you.

Ok...

Prayerfully, fresh perspective will fall on me. I've said this before, and will probably say it a million times over--I love that I can read the same verses over and over again, and each time find new insight and revelation. I am an avid reader/writer. At all hours of the day, I am either reading something or writing something. Yet, nothing gets me like the Holy Word.

By way of Introduction--the Virtuous Woman.

Why study her?

Well, initially the womanist in me really reared her ugly head! Women in the Bible have been really been given the bad wrap over the years. We are all relegated to Prostitutes or Harlots, according to popular theologians past. At least that's my amateur opinion. So, underwent a search.

Okay...then, I started really getting into the Word, in general, and, specifically, as it had to do with women. I really found the women powerful. Christ's ministry to women was amazing!

The Proverbs 31 Woman, then took on prolific proportions in my own mind. It is this interpretation that I hope to share with you over the course of the next few weeks.

Ready?

I am going to start where the Proverb starts--the voice of Proverbs is the son, Lemuel who is imparting to his writings the teaching of his mother, Bathsheba. I want to start with these as being intimate teachings from mother to son. How do I know that? Well, Lemuel is the name Solomon writes this particular proverb under.

Lemuel is apparently a nickname from mother to son--Lemuel meaning "Belonging to God". No where else is Solomon referred to by this name except here when referencing his mother. I know I call each of my boys by a special name that only I use for only them. And, usually, I use these special names during an intimate moment with my boys, like bedtime, when we are snuggled watching a movie, after a rough day at school, after a particular rough game, etc. I also use it when I want them to take to heart what I am saying.

This was the case with this particular Oracle from Bathsheba to her son, Lemuel

(Solomon). I can imagine her sitting on her 12 year old's bed, as he is experiencing his first crush, and explaining to him what he should desire in a wife. She has already pegged him to be the King of Israel--either due to Divine Inspiration, or because every mother wants her son to be the King of the World. Whichever was the case, she expected big things from Solomon, and she wanted to teach him HOW to achieve greatness. (Read 1 Kings 1 for the story)

I am going to jump off here for a second. Do you, mothers, spend intimate time with your sons? Do you realize that our sons emulate two things with their spouses:

1) the way they see the men in their lives treat the women in their lives.

2) the way they love their mother, and the way their mother loves them.

If we are ready to say that every successful man has a supportive woman by his side, do you not want to make sure that your son has the most successful and supportive woman at his side. Do you realize you have everything to do with that decision.

If our sons see their mother allowing themselves to be mistreated--they will mistreat! If instead they see there mother expecting favor and love from those who love them--AND EQUALLY--they bestow favor and love on those whom they love--they, our sons will do, and expect, the same, and more so.

At Nathan's council, Bathsheba went to the King--after all she and David had gone through, she expected King David to treat her with favor and love at all times. She had 4 children with him. She left a loving spouse for him, who David in turn killed.

She has had to endure scorn, sin, guilt, the death of child--all for being in relationship with him. Now we can debate whether or not it was consensual--I am going to go out on a limb here and say that with the level of wisdom and love that comes through Bathsheba through the text of the Word, there was a mutual affection between David and Bathsheba.

She was one BOLD sister.

Example, David was being "attended to" by another woman when she goes in and asks--with expectation--that Solomon be made King. David agreed, even as his older son was already shouting through Israel that he would be the next king. Can we say Bathsheba was fearless?!!? She was a protective mother bear over her cubs.

She was a mother of the highest order. She knew that if David's older son were to become King, he would kill all of her sons--and she had 3-- so that there would be no competition for the throne. (Ya'll have got to read 1Kings 1 and 2) She was not only seeking the Kingship for Solomon, she was protecting her family.

To what extent are we, mothers, willing to protect our children? Are we willing to face down death to keep them alive?

Let’s travel back to the intimate conversation between Bathsheba and her Lemuel.

Proverbs 31 is particularly in a feminine voice. Its as if we were a fly on the wall during that conversation, and we are listening to her speak/teach. Our boys need to hear this voice in a positive and appropriate setting. (Now, although I am specifically writing today about mothers and sons, most of the ensuing posts will be about our daughters--so bear with me today.) They need to hear this voice in a positive and APPROPRIATE setting because the alternative is HORRIBLE. We don’t want the only feminine voice our sons' hear to be the popular video vixen getting down with some stranger. We don’t want the voice to be missing from our sons memory because it will be replaced with whatever voice simulates that of a woman's. We don’t want the voice to be missing, because its absence reflects a missing piece in his heart. One of the most wonderful interpretations I've ever heard of the creation of Eve from the rib of Adam, was that women were created from the rib of man, because just as the ribs protect his heart and breath of man--so do women.

If we do not protect the hearts and the life of our sons, we need to be prepared for him to go seeking protection for himself. We may not like what/who he solicits as protection.

Finally, as mothers, we are the teachers of culture. We are the ones who impart the subtleties of culture to our children. That is an awesome responsibility. You know, "Raise up a child..." It is at bedside and the kitchen that our children learn our oral histories, our values, our morals, the importance of things as simple as colors and smells. That Solomon is able to capture his mothers' voice so perfectly in these verses indicates that he spent many an hour in the School of Bathsheba.

I want to make a note here: Just because our sons have access to their mothers, should not mean that our sons have access to us in personal "womanish" spaces. If they do, we run the risk of the "Oedipal Complex"--our boys become so enamored with their mothers, no other woman has access to them. As wives, we call these men "Mama's Boys" and they frustrate the hell out of us. Its not healthy. Or, these boys could become confused on appropriate behavior for a young man. My son calls these boys "girl boys."

(Please dont misunderstand. I am not talking about sexual orientation. Nor am I suggesting nor commenting on the "nurture" part of sexual orientation. I am not talking about whether your boy was "just born effeminate." Nope, I am talking specifically about you allowing your son to sit for hours in the beauty salon while you gossip and gabber with all your girls--and your son thinking that THAT is an appropriate place for him to be, and that THAT behavior is ok for him. I'll wait for the emails on this commentary.)

My final words--as long winded as this was--is this:

As we move into the verses of Proverbs 31, I want you to find kinship with the speaker of these words. She was a mother. She was a woman who was raising her children in difficult times, through trials and crisis's. She was a mother who expected great things of her children, in spite of her circumstances while raising them.

She was our sister.

She was us.

Bathsheba...what a woman. The first of many I hope to meet during this journey with you.

Have a blessed day!

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