Tuesday, June 30, 2020


If you want a glimpse into the general angle that women's ministry has taken, you need look no further than its usual suspects. That is, which biblical women does women's ministry choose to emphasize and who are the women you almost never hear about?

The first question is pretty easy. Women's ministry certainly has a 'type' of biblical woman it chooses to prioritize. These women include Ruth, Esther, Mary (but not Martha), and the 'Proverbs 31' woman. Ruth is a woman who was taught to play the damsel and found her family's kinsman-redeemer. She served meekly, quietly, and faithfully and did as she was instructed to do, and because of this, she has permanent place in the lineage of Jesus. Esther spent months beautifying herself and became queen of the whole empire because of her beauty, which allowed her to eventually curtsy before the king and save her people. Mary listened at the feet of Jesus instead of busying herself with a bunch of chores; she chose quiet listening over busy noise. And of course, the Proverbs 31 woman is both beautiful, taking care of herself well, and a masterful manager over her household.

In other words, if you want to be a woman of God, be quiet, meek, service-oriented, and, well, beautiful. Be that 1950s housewife that God always designed you to be, take good care of yourself, take good care of your family, and above all else, be quiet and obedient and unassuming.

How many women's ministry weekends have been spent studying the likes of...Lydia, a woman who made her own name in her community and established a business for herself? Or what about Deborah, a fierce judge of Israel at a time when they were looking for leadership? How many flowery Bible journals do you have for Jael?

Oh, who is Jael? Jael is the quiet, unassuming, nearly-anonymous woman of Israel who invited the enemy general into her tent for a drink, poured him a glass of warm milk, and then drove a tent peg through his temple while he slept on her floor. How many women's ministry studies have encouraged us to be fierce and decisive like Jael?

I imagine if a study on such a woman was written in today's women's ministry environment, it would focus on being hospitable. "This woman invited an enemy into her home. Not only did she invite him into her home when he needed a bit of shelter, but she gave him something to drink! And not only something to drink, but warm milk! You could all use to be a little more of a gracious hostess like Jael."

But didn't she...she was a gracious hostess. Be more like Jael. Get warm milk for tired soldiers. That's your God-given duty.

Or here's one: when was the last time a women's ministry invited you to dive into the story of the woman at the well? Has anyone ever handed you a journal that simply instructs, "Write down everything you've ever done"? That was her story, right? Jesus told her everything she'd ever done and then redeemed her. How many retreat weekends give you the space to write down and even confess your sin and be set free from it?

Nah, we're too busy designing dresses to clothe ourselves for the big ol' wedding we're about to have. Never mind those five husbands and some sixth man we're living with. (Not necessarily literal men, of course, but those things that court our lives for the love and attention that we ought to be giving to Jesus.)

Women's ministry just doesn't encourage us to be dynamic, complete women. It doesn't inspire us to be self-sufficient, but always to be bonded. It doesn't teach us to find our own way, but to follow those who lead us. It doesn't invite us to engage our own story, but only to plan the ending (or new beginning) of it. It doesn't honor our ugliness; it just tries to hone our beauty. It doesn't want us to be fierce; it wants us to be quiet. Not strong, but dainty. Like Ruth's story, so much of women's ministry is set up to make us play the damsel.

And I don't know about you, but sometimes, I need to be able to drive a tent peg through someone's temple and claim a real victory. Sometimes, I need to run into town unashamed and tell a whole people who think they already know my story everything I've ever done so that I can tell them about a Jesus who came to redeem me. Sometimes, I need to stop designing dresses and stand naked in the public square, honest about who I am and my failures and my brokenness the way the woman caught in adultery stood among the Pharisees.

Sometimes - okay, all the time - I need my story to be something more than beautiful. I need it to be real.

Only then will it ever truly be holy. 

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