As an associate professor of bible, I split my time between seminary and strip club because it is my fierce conviction that as the text impacts our lives, we should live accordingly. That is to say, I take seriously Jesus’ charge to be light and salt, I am compelled by his model of shared life and supper with outcasts; I am transfixed by the stories of whores who are also heroines in the plan of God.
If you look close enough, you start to discern certain patterns hidden up under the sacred text, all those stories concerning men, handed down by men, interpreted by men across the ages. If you press in, like the woman with the issue of blood and bend over to see what Jesus is doing in the dust, like the woman caught in adultery, you will begin to see a counter-narrative emerge; hope scribbled right into these manuscripts, texts read from the bottom up. When you catch it, you will realize with Hagaar that God sees you and you will laugh out loud like Sarah at the hope of a baby in her barren womb. God has always been on our side.
So much like the strippers who are my friends, we tend to read the women of Scripture from the top down and thereby miss the wonder of God’s work before us. It is no accident that all the women named in the genealogy of Jesus are so called scandalous. Like so many women who we read about in the canon, these women were oppressed by a system that left them few choices save to trade their bodies to survive.
Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute to lure her father in law to her bed so that she might have a child; Rahab, the harlot, welcomes the Hebrew spies and deceives her own king. At the impetus of her mother in law, Ruth dares to sneak to the threshing floor amidst a gang of drunken men to sleep next to Boaz so that he might take her for a wife; Bathsheba answers the king’s summons and becomes his concubine and the mother of his child. Mary is a pregnant, unwed teen who births forth the son of God.
I often wonder if we knew deep the stories of women who went before us, would we be fortified. If we’d heard the stories scraped from the pages of the text, if they’d been relayed to us from the bottom up, from the point of view of woman, slave, victim of sexual abuse, warrior, sage, patrona, would we have received them differently, would we have been encouraged, would we have felt less alone, would we have a sense of our own worth and purpose in God’s plan?
It doesn’t take long before you begin connecting the dots between the women of Scripture and sex workers, soccer moms and female seminarians, you begin to find much and more we have in common as women. These commonalities stretch across the ages, reach across religious tradition and geography and socio economic standing. Some of these commonalities, unfortunately, render us paralyzed, unaware of our own divine, feminine power.
We are, all of us, afraid. Whether you take your clothes off for money or are scrambling to pack the perfect snack for the team or are working on the final draft of a manuscript for the last two years; we are convinced we are not enough. Women who lead conferences, convene boards, sell their bodies for a living are terrified that someone will find out what we believe is true, we are worthless and wayward, overweight and over obsessed, too thin or too loud, not educated enough, not experienced enough, not credible enough, not smart enough, not beautiful enough, not …enough.
Most of us, it seems are starved and searching for stories of hope, stories of survival, stories of women who made it through the struggle, who found a way through the pain, to see and know God as manifest in feminine form, to be able to find ourselves in the miracles of Jesus and borne up on Spirit wings.
To this I say, receive the Good News of Christ who rescues, redeems, restores; the Lord your God is on your side.
Travel with Kimberly to Greece/Turkey to study women of the New Testament up close and personal May 2014. For more information click here.
Sunday afternoon, windows open, birds singing, lawn mowers humming outside, a lilac breeze reminds me I am alive and life is good. I rest and my thoughts ramble. I recount the crazy hours of this week past; a quick trip south to dye Easter Eggs and squeeze precious moments out of this life as my sister’s children grow into their double digit years. Manicures, shopping, Wii golf and other beloved rituals that can only be entrusted to an auntie crushed and rendered powerless to the reign of love. Back to Indiana for Sunday to celebrate the resurrection and to share ham and chocolate ice cream cake with more nieces all ruffles and bows.
Shrine of Mary Magdalene, Vezelay, France
_ You can see it in the face of a survivor, the twinkle in her eye that tells you: I have seen the worst, I have fought the devil, I have walked through the fire and I’m still here. Something about the pink feather boa wrapped ‘round her graceful neck, the colorful ribbons born proudly on her chest, the song of hope in a cemetery that makes you want to tip your hat, bow your head or courtesy in her presence. There is something magical and inspirational in her smile that entices us all to believe, we shall overcome. And there is nothing that can rival the power of the heart that bleeds this refrain in all the world.