Five women. One man.
How do these five women of the ancient world fit into our modern world? What can be said of them to uplift? What can be said of their roles as sisters, wives, concubines, surrogates, daughters? How can we (I) reconcile those ancient lives with yours and mine? What can I boil down for you in a few words, on this W day of the A to Z Challenge that will give you hope?
I've struggled in my own role as a woman. Being a Navy wife I've struggled in my role as wife/deployment head of house. Having been married 31 years, I struggle with my role. It's not easy living in the place God has for you with so many influences of my culture, my country, and the boundaries, or lack thereof, we have been born into.
Some use the ancient words to force submission. Some use the ancient words to abandon submission. Some don't use the ancient words at all.
I grew up in the late 60's and 70's when women left the honored role of homemaker in search of the greener grass. They believed the lie that women could have it all - career, husband, family - yet, statistics are telling a different story. We can look around us, in our families, our schools and our churches and see that as wonderful as it is to see women in roles that breed confidence, a price has been paid.
I've spent a lot of time thinking about Leah and Rachel, and their concubines Zilpah and Bilhah the past four months. I've tried to imagine what it is like to be in their culture trying to find love and meaning through giving a man a child. Although many things are different, the curse of Eve is still alive in 2016:
"Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you."
Before the fall - women were never meant to be ruled by their husbands.
Before the fall - woman's desires were meant for God.
Before the fall - the word equality wasn't necessary. The word submission wasn't a bad word.
But after the deception - a woman's desire will be for her husband
After the deception - a woman will be ruled by her husband.
It's not the original intent of the male/female relationship.
But even these thousands years later the curse is still in effect.
No one knows their real roles. In my country, many women think their role is supposed to be equal to or the same as a man's and men are afraid to live their role without being accused of ruling. Or, women think they don't need a man and men sadly believe them.
I've had some tender moments with God as I've faced my own role, my own identity as a woman by studying these ladies. I remember and see all the times Jesus reached out to a woman. It was a woman he first showed himself to, long before any of the men saw him after the crucifixion and burial. It was a woman he pulled from being stoned, while pointing out that in God's eyes, all sin is worthy of punishment, no matter the gender of the offender. It was through a woman he came to earth. It was a woman who offered him her richest treasure as she poured it on his feet. It was a woman who stood at the cross watching him die. It was a woman who broke the good 'ol boy rules and sat at the feet of Jesus to be taught.
The prophet Joel saw a time when the LORD "Will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see vision. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days."
The curse from the garden is not the law. The curse from the garden is where the struggle lies. The curse has never negated God's plan for the roles of male and female. His plan still includes both men and women in the beautiful roles He has designed and purposed for them.
We may have lost our way, trying to follow the world's way of equality. Surely when suffering was in our rearview mirror as the feminist movement backed out of the driveway, driving us down a path not even considered or imagined, we still don't have it as God originally intended.
So what is there to learn from Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah and even no-story Dinah?
That's a personal question only you can answer.
Are you still like Leah and Rachel, hoping to find significance in having children, or in having a man love you? Or are you more like Zilpah and Bilhah, unable to stand up and be more than someone's servant, to be used at your master's whim?
The grace that God bestowed on Jacob and his wives, despite everything we think they did to mess things up, is still beautiful grace. Grace that sees beyond the daily sin and struggle of loving God most. He loves us most, whether we love him back or not.
His love for us is true and unending and merciful.
He loves women. He loves men. He loves you.
You can never change that fact, no matter how hard you think you've messed up.
W is for (Wo)man