Thirty years ago I was a freshman at The University of Texas at Austin. The Lord led me into a four week Bible study with Cru (Campus Crusade at the time) pretty early on that year, and then I made my way through their subsequent studies. Anybody remember the Discovery Group? The Discipleship Group? And finally, the Action Group? I had absolutely no idea I was proving myself to be FAT at the time: faithful, available, teachable. I just knew that I loved studying the Bible and learning about the Christian faith alongside other women.
Laura was my first leader. Then came Cas, and Catherine, and Tracy. They met with me, they listened to me, they clarified the gospel for me, they challenged me, they prayed for me, and eventually, they assigned me a group of women to shepherd in the same way I had been.
I was so honored by this, as well as extremely excited and nervous. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I much preferred preparing to lead my small group of younger women and meeting them individually for coffee and bagels than I did doing my psychology and history homework. I have the grades to show it.
Have I told you the story of the day Robert proposed to me? It happened on a Friday morning around 11am, because I had class in the morning and a lunch date with one of my girls at 1pm. Robert picked me up on campus, drove me to the trail where we always took walks, had a picnic brunch and roses waiting, proposed, and then drove me to Luby’s restaurant in south Austin to meet Heather for lunch. I felt that Heather wouldn’t mind him joining us that day, given the circumstances. Imagine her discomfort in having an awkward lunch with the just-moments-before-engaged couple (she’d never met Robert) who was trying (probably unsuccessfully) to make her the center of attention. This was in the olden days before cell phones and texting, though, so what could we do?
Anyway, hardly a week has passed in the last 30 years that I haven’t had the privilege (or challenge) of sitting across the cafe table from a woman or meeting with a small group of them. It’s been one of the most joyful and meaningful aspects of my life.
Why am I sharing this? A couple of reasons, I suppose.
Maybe the first reason is that this last year was so full of opportunities to meet and walk with women. It was possibly one of my most favorite years of friendship with and ministry to women. Truly, my cup was overflowing with meaningful feminine relationships, and I am so very grateful.
The abundance of those relationships was even able to counteract a few very difficult recent interactions with women. Interestingly, in a day and age where the abuses of men are so blatant, my own experience with men is one of trust and mutual respect. It’s at the hands of women that I’ve suffered the most abuse, mistreatment, and neglect beginning with my own mother. (Something I’ve never talked about here, and probably never will due to the public and permanent nature of this space.) Maybe this is why I long for and treasure positive relationships with women so much.
Another reason I’m writing is because the one year anniversary of the Women’s March is coming up this weekend, and some of you remember that it brought me to a place of great concern last year. I’ve had a year to mull it over now, and while I think I better understand some individual choices to participate, I remain uncomfortable with this particular mode of advocating for women in general. The behavior I witnessed, in my opinion, had the very opposite effect of its intended goal – that of getting women the respect they both desire and deserve.
Part of my love for the Scriptures is the elevated view of women therein…
Children are required to honor their father AND their mother in Exodus.
Provisions for women’s protection and even property rights in some cases are delineated in Deuteronomy.
The major historical/biblical eras all begin with women – mostly women giving birth, or aiding others in birth, or praying desperately for a child, or being faithful to God and a bitter mother-in-law, or risking her life for the Jewish nation, or receiving a Messiah-Child supernaturally.
The domestic work of women is considered heroic and of equal importance to the conquering work of men.
Jesus loved women, defended women before men, considered them His close friends, and engaged them in theological conversations.
Paul loved women, praised their faith, worked alongside them, and honored them by mentioning them by name in his letters.
A woman was first to witness the resurrected Christ and tell the good news to the male disciples.
I could go on, but that’s a pretty good start.
Here’s the deal, though. Women have sinful tendencies and engage in destructive behavior just as men do. Just listen to the descriptions and warnings…
A constant dripping on a day of steady rain and a contentious woman are alike (Proverbs 27:15)
It is better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious/quarrelsome woman. (Proverbs 21:9/25:24)
Rise up, you women who are at ease, And hear my voice; Give ear to my word, You complacent daughters. (Isaiah 32:9)
For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning, but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. (2 Timothy 3:6)
And behold, a woman comes to meet him, dressed as a harlot and cunning of heart.
She is boisterous and rebellious, Her feet do not remain at home (Proverbs 7:10-11)
A beautiful woman who lacks discretion is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout. (Proverbs 11:22)
Again, I could go on, but you get the idea.
During a recent coffee date with a young woman, she pondered aloud whether it wouldn’t be better if women were in charge in all areas of life, being the kinder, gentler, more compassionate sex. After all, it’s not women who are committing mass shootings and perpetual sexual harassment was her reasoning, and understandably so. But this reveals a lack of theological understanding, for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
It’s not only men who cause damage and destruction. Women simply use different weapons. I’ve not only witnessed and been wounded by those weapons, I’ve used them myself.
God, writing through Peter, encourages women to adorn themselves with “a gentle (humble) and quiet (undisturbed, unruffled) spirit, which is precious in the sight of the Lord.” (I Peter 3:4) This is not a personality type, it’s a choice by faith to be humble and undisturbed as we face a fallen world and its inherent injustices. And it’s a much more powerful choice than ranting, raving, cursing, and wearing a pink hat, not only because it carries with it the power of God, but because it is precious to Him.
I’m coming back tomorrow with 30 ways to walk with women – to support them, to advocate for them, to encourage them, and to love them.
And I’m praying that women everywhere will come to know the precious power of influence God has given them, if only they will trust in His ways.