Janelle Alberts writes pithy Bible synopses and is a regular contributor to Christianity Today's Gifted for Leadership. For more on Alberts visit janellealberts.wordpress.com.
Over the years, I’ve heard dozens of how-to-be-godly messages for women and they regularly circle around the same theme: don’t mouth off to men. Especially husbands.
Right. Good. Unless you’re Esther. Or Abigail. And your husbands are being idiots. In which case God says to stand up! Speak up!
Instead, churches tell women to strive for the Proverbs 31 Woman. I just now read that passage and no wonder everyone wishes to be her - the woman had servants.
How did it happen that the “godly” woman message from the pulpit began pushing women to be docile and sugary sweet?
What about our salt?
I get it that Eve is the one who gave the apple to Adam. Eve, Eve, Eve. If only you’d had a support system and access to an online chat group.
As for speaking up, if only Pontius Pilate had listened to his mouthy wife who warned him not to do it, no matter all the hollering going on outside.
As it stands, women feel guilty and confused. As a result, we shut up at all the wrong times.
Perhaps we have done it to ourselves, we women. We’re so competitive. Once we sink our teeth into how something is “supposed” to be, we stop reading/thinking/wondering/searching/praying and instead we’re ruthless in our pursuit to put an absolute label on those around us.
Many a righteous girl gang has cut me down to size with a look that says, “Your highlights look dull. You can’t quote the Luke Christmas verse on command. You don’t have an Honor Student bumper sticker for your minivan. Why you so happy?”
It’s not as if men benefit from homogenized preaching concerning women either. No guy comes home from a Sunday afternoon of golf without penalty to pay. The shiny church glow has worn off, the house is a wreck and the kids need a bath. Everybody pays.
Let me blaspheme here by taking liberty with a Helen Gurley Brown quote on what it takes for a woman to really be a woman. She said, “It takes guts.”
It takes guts to be an Esther. It takes guts to be an Abigail. It takes guts to approach and really know this God whom you have chosen to serve.
Take heart. Yours is the God who went to the home of Lydia, who gave Rahab a place in Jesus’ lineage and who saw it through with Sarah even though she laughed at His promise.
Yours is the God who longs for you to hear His still small voice, no matter the hollering going on outside.
That’s liberation if ever there was.
Janelle Alberts spent her early career in PR departments for Microsoft and UPS, boiling down logical, clear corporate messaging. She now attempts the same for Scripture, often featuring bits we’ve never heard, but wish we had, since knowing things like even Noah got tipsy & embarrassed his kids can help a girl rally to the end of the day. Find out more about Alberts here.
When I first read the book To Kill a Mockingbird, my favorite line was, “Courage is when you know you’re licked…but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.”
Even young, I knew that was…optimistic. Begin anyway? That’s not a usual suspect for How To Cope When You’re Licked.
Coping usually involves words more like “fake-it-til-you-make-it,” which we all know has its benefits. We like tools that temporarily help us tread water when times get tough.
But, faking is not beginning. Faking is rather more like wandering and wandering and wandering through the wilderness, much like the Israelites, for 40 unnecessary years. Through sputtering starts and stops, the Israelites eventually managed one meaningful step after another, and finally stood before their promised land, having gone all the way.
That is a main difference between faking v. beginning. Beginning testifies that all the way is even a thing.
On the contrary, faking works up a sweat just standing still. Faking is disillusioning and makes all the way sound like a joke.
But there they were, those Israelites.
God had been with them through one thing all the way over to a brand new thing, a land that the Lord their God would care for (Deut 11).. He asked, would they remember Him, the One who had brought them all the way.
Do we? Remember God? All the way? Through the basic bits of everyday life, where no matter which way we juke then jive, it looks like things will not get better. Not really. Not in ways that count.
Sorry, Atticus. Courage is seeing it through no matter what? Who possibly is that optimistic?
In light of the Israelites’ tendency to fake it rather than begin anyway and in light of our own reasonable, rational, suspicions that all the way is elusive, at least as far as we can see – there is a God who hopes on, on our behalf.
He would like to strengthen us to try the same.
“Observe therefore…so you may have strength to go in and take over the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess...” (Deut 11:8)
God’s antidote for the Israelites’ predilection for living a fake life? Remember.
“Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord your God; his majesty…”
Not your children. You.
“His mighty hand, his outstretched arm; the signs he performed and the things he did…as (your enemies) were pursuing you…”
Not just anybody’s enemies. Your enemies.
“It was not your children who saw what he did for you….”
“But, it was your own eyes that saw all these great things the Lord has done.”
That is not pixie dust or a mantra or a tiny little sheet pulled out of a tiny little cookie. That is not a wish.
That is remembering.
Remembering gives begin anyway something irrefutable.
In the case of the Israelites, they could not un-see how this God had personally involved Himself in their circumstances and also in their hearts.
In the case of us? The Author of the Bible promises the same - a relationship with a God who unapologetically does not tell all, but does want us to see His very personal touch on our lives. He admits the harsh reality of circumstances and likewise affectionately, persistently, beckons us to…begin anyway.
What will happen? The Israelites received little more than, “You’re about to find out.” That led to a rescue from Egypt, manna from heaven and a lot more that their ancestors had never before known.
Beginning is scary. Remembering is hard. That was true for the Israelites. It was sometimes easier to drum up a fake golden calf rather than sticking with God and stepping into the abyss.
Yet, courage is when you begin anyway. It isn’t an easy life, but it mercifully isn’t a fake one.
Begin. Put one foot in front of the other. With Him.
To what end? Try Him, and we’re about to find out.
He wishes we would.
Janelle Alberts writes pithy pieces that usually feature a bit of Scripture you've never heard, but wish you had. Knowing things like even Noah got tipsy & embarrassed his kids can help a girl rally to the end of the day. She is a regular contributor to Christianity Today's Gifted for Leadership. Find out more about Alberts here.
I once heard a mother speaking with her son about a recess fight with his little friend. The mom said all the usual encouraging things, and then added, “And son, maybe you could talk to God about this.”
The little boy turned to his mom with a question. “Would God care?”
He was ready to get personal about this God that his mom had been making him put on church clothes to go sing about every Sunday. The mom believed that her God cared about this recess situation. Pretty much. But the real question she couldn’t answer was this: “If God cares, then what will He do?”
It’s the theme of the whole Bible. Introductions go a little like this:
God: “Hi! I’m God. You are people. I love you.”
People: “Prove it. Then I’ll believe. Pretty much.”
And so the stories are told from the Israelites who, after crossing over the dry land of the parted Red Sea looked around only to ask, “Now what’ll we possibly do about dinner?”
And on to the disciples who, after Jesus walked on water and de-demonized a little girl, stood scratching their heads wondering where to get bread in such a remote place to feed so many people.
When we are right smack in the middle of a crucial moment, we are confused.
We must get it through our head, it’s not about the bread. Or it’s not just about bread. Certainly there are bread-multiplying, cancer-curing, miraculous moments. But they come and go.
The emotion we feel in their absence reveals what we believe about this God. It reveals whether we really believe Him at all.
Here’s an emotion: confidence.
When three young Israelites named Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were facing down a deadly furnace heated seven times hotter than usual, they didn’t know what their God would do, but they told King Nebuchadnezzar that they pick Him anyway. They said our God can save us, but even if He doesn’t, He’s still our God.
They were not sure what God would do, but they were sure how God felt.
He cares. He can, but even if He doesn’t, He still cares. He is still the One.
It’s possible He has a plan. It’s possible I am playing part in something that is bigger than me. Even today. Even at recess. It’s possible.
Is it possible? Pretty much.
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Janelle Alberts writes pithy pieces that usually feature a bit of Scripture you've never heard, but wish you had. Knowing things like even Noah got tipsy & embarrassed his kids can help a girl rally to the end of the day. Find out more about Alberts here.