A little over a year ago I took up photography for a hobby. Armed with my newfangled camera, my tripod and my enthusiasm I set happily off to the beach to catch some waves…..metaphorically speaking. Alas, things didn’t turn out to be as simple as I’d expected. Sure I had an instruction manual, but who needs all that fine print, right?
Well…um….I did as it turned out. The first thing I had to learn was that there’s seeing and then there’s really seeing. And it seemed what I was seeing through my camera lens was not the reality.
Let me explain….when I first look through the lens of my camera I see a very blurry, very uninspiring version of the awesome, ground breaking, Pulitzer Prize worthy scene I know I’ve actually lined up. Fine tuning is the key. Delicately adjusting my lens before I take the shot means the difference between an out of focus, hazy photo worthy only for the dark recesses of the linen cupboard, or a sharp, accurate image that says something clear about who I am and how I see things.
Similarly, history has provided us with a blurred, inaccurate image of womankind. As a consequence, the picture we’ve taken home of ourselves has been out of focus, false, and too often something to be ashamed of. Take for instance some of the following statements about women by respected ‘fathers of the church’. (Warning: emotionally abusive language ahead.)
*Because of you we are punished by death….because of you, women, the Son of God had to die…woman, you are the gate to hell. And:
*Woman is a temple built over a sewer. Tertullian, “the father of Latin Christianity” (c160-225)
*Men should not listen to a woman even if she says admirable things or if she says saintly things. They are of little consequence since they come from the mouth of a woman. Origen (d. 258), Fragments on First Corinthians, 74
*Woman does not possess the image of God in herself but only when taken together with the male who is her head, But as far as the man is concerned, he is by himself alone the image of God. Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo Regius (354-430)
*For a man to go to a woman for advice is like going to the lowest kind of animal to seek advice. John Chrysostom, Early Church Father, (347-407)
*As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church, 13th century, Summa Theologica
*The wickedness of women is greater than all other wickedness. A dragon is more curable than the familiarity of a woman. Avoid them like poisonous animals. Pope Innocence 111
Or these, from the reformer, Martin Luther and the highly respected John Calvin:
*Even though they grow weary and wear themselves out with child-bearing, it does not matter; let them go on bearing children till they die, that is what they are there for. Martin Luther
*All women are born that they may acknowledge themselves as inferior in consequence to the superiority of the male sex. From Calvin’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians (Chapter 11)
And in case we might assume such statements were merely a reflection of the culture of their times, here are some samples from more ‘enlightened’ recent history:
*The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians. Pat Robertson, Southern Baptist leader (1930- ) fundraising letter July 1992
*Women will be saved by going back to that role that God has chosen for them. Ladies, if the hair on the back of your neck stands up it is because you are fighting your role in the scripture. Mark Driscoll, founder of Mars Hill mega-church, Seattle, USA
*God made Christianity to have a masculine feel. He has ordained for the church a masculine ministry. John Piper, desiringgod.org
Similar quotes, historic and contemporary, are multiple and not difficult to find, but you get the idea! When statements like these are held up as accurate reflections of women, women’s roles, and women’s place in creation, the picture we behold is not just blurry, it’s decidedly ugly. Some fine print needs to be consulted. Some delicate tuning is in order.
I firmly believe Christian women are well overdue for some serious readjustment on how they have learned to view themselves.
Who do you think you are, really? It’s one thing to be constantly condescendingly reassured that you are a ‘daughter of God’ created to forever support, enrich and serve the male leadership in your life and that’s just the way things are because that’s what God wants … da dum da dum da dum. It’s another thing to take responsibility to find out for ourselves exactly who we are in God’s eyes, who He is calling us to be and how He wishes to express Himself through us. Such a journey, once begun, is hard to turn back from and may prove costly. Are we up for it?
Through Ishshah’s Story I want to awaken you, challenge you, stir you and downright dare you to become all you can be as female Christ followers. In ironic testimony to the relentless advancing of God’s Kingdom on earth and despite the multitude of historical voices that continue to ‘blur’ the image of women, history is still replete with radical, Christ following females who have repeatedly given their all for Christ.
In the face of prejudice and false Biblical teaching, in the face of negative public opinion and persecution, in the face of threats and intimidation, women have gone, preached, taught, led, suffered, born spiritual fruit, and often died for the gospel of Christ and His Kingdom. The true story of redeemed womankind is not one of inferiority, curse and punishment, but one of courage, calling, and overcoming faithfulness in tremendous adversity. This rich heritage is what we intend to celebrate here on Ishshah’s Story.
I believe with certainty this is God’s time for His daughters to awaken to who they are in Christ. The Holy Spirit calls us louder and louder to lives that demonstrate the freedom so expensively secured for us at Calvary. It’s past time to adjust our inner lenses and forthrightly declare with those early Christ followers that ‘we cannot but speak the things we have seen and heard’ (Acts 4:20).
Jesus once encountered a very ordinary village woman at a well, a woman He deliberately went out of His way to meet, a woman whose lifestyle had been open to question. She was at the well alone, not, as was the custom, with other women. Her history, according to those around her, decreed her unworthy. The opinions of others had defined her value. While His male disciples looked on disapprovingly, Jesus saved her, redefined her, commissioned her and sent her back to her village as His evangelist (John 4:3-41).
It took an intimate encounter with Christ for a despised Samaritan woman living off the beaten track to realize she was not who she thought she was, but who He thought she was. So, who do you think you are?
It’s time to step out of the shadows, time be who He thinks we are!
Image courtesy of [David Castillo Dominici] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.