Very early in my childhood, I drew a scene snatched from the pages of the bible, the one my mother used to read from and out of which came the stories she regaled to us in our Wednesday night junior bible class.
Born and raised in East Tennessee, my mother had a way with words; she could spin a tale that would leave you, mouth gaping wide, mind whirling at the wonder of it all. Her faith a fusion of Missionary Baptist holiness, Cherokee mysticism and mountain magic all rolled into one.I would get lost in her stories just like in her red high heel shoes, they were too big, but I was fast growing into them.
Once after class, I drew what I saw in my infant imagination, put pen to paper and allowed the images to come to life. I drew reeds, tall and slender, spikey and bent; colored them in with the vibrant hues of the Nile delta, emerald, azure, magenta, as it existed in my mind. The papyrus reeds peeled back ever so slightly to reveal the babe in the basket afloat on the river deep and wide.
What I know now is that I heard the story, saw the scene unfold through the eyes of Miriam and looked on from some place of deep knowing as a young girl, the older sister called upon to care, watch over, yet surrender the baby to the God of the river. What I know now is I was exercising a hermeneutical lens, asking myself, “where do I stand in this text” so that I could find my way, move around in it, deep resonate with its meaning.
The story, clearly about Moses the one sent by God to deliver the Hebrew children from the bondage of Egypt, was experienced differently for me. As a woman, the story reverberated inside my own chest, I leaned into it and saw behind and up under it as I stretched into the skin of it and saw it all unfold from the banks of the Nile feet wet from standing too close to the edge, heart skipping beats.
The Holy Scripture has always called this out of me since the canon as we now have it is for the most part a collection of narratives recorded, copied, edited and compiled by men who live many centuries after those women and men whose stories they are trying to convey. And so, to find my own way I have needed to press beyond the text, delve deep into culture and context to find my imaginings real or renegade.
Studying Scripture as women then, requires much of us, we must know ourselves and the perspective, the pain, the hope, the needs we bring to the text, and we must, as much as we are able know of the time, the place, the culture and conditions of the women remembered forever in the ancient writ so that we might know them and remember we are not alone.
At the start of this New Year, on the blog we embark upon the study of women, written into history as harlots, remembered for the role they play in God’s redeeming plan. As we explore together, we’ll become aware at the prevailing theme it is to find women of scandal drawn right into God’s work of hope across the ages and perhaps we might find more grace for women driven to desperate measures in our own world.