I like strong women. I am married to one! I’m the proud father two daughters who I believe can hold their own against anyone! In my professional life, I have always been surrounded by strong women!
Some people mistakenly operate out of an economy of scarcity.
- If one kind of person is strong, then other people must be weak.
This week is Mothers’ Day. One of my heroes is a woman from the Bible, Lydia, a Strong Woman, a successful merchant in Philippi, Greece.
- She was a businesswoman, a broker, a distributor whose niche market involved purple cloth.
- She owned a business.
- She owned a home.
- She was smart.
- She was sensitive.
- She was hospitable.
- She was compassionate.
- She was persuasive.
Lydia is one of dozens of strong women in Holy Scripture who serve as a reminder to us that there are two sides to every story. Churches or families or cultures that insist on only one type of woman, the weak, simpering, docile woman, do themselves and “their” women much harm.
I had lunch this week with a young woman who regrets that the church has seemingly approved of two kinds of women through the centuries: “pretty women” and “good women.” Yet I can think of dozens of types of women in the Bible that are valued and their stories are told. Why have we limited our Mother’s Day reflections to texts such as Proverbs 31? In the Bible there are stories about
- Rebellious women
- Charismatic women
- Courageous women
- Wise women
- Colorful women
- Determined women
- Independent women
- Strong women
According to some parts of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, women were no more than property, first of their fathers and then of their husbands. Examine Exodus 21 and 22 for some painful Mothers’ Day reading and see if Jesus or Hallmark would bless those particular passages? Passages such as this are why the Bible tells us to “rightly handle the word of truth.” By the way, all children were property, male and female, but boys grew into men and acquired the rights assigned to men. Girls become women, however, and remained second-class citizens.
There are people who will argue that I am misrepresenting the position of conservative or fundamentalist churches. I don’t think I am. I was watching a television worship service once, which is something I don’t often do, and I was impressed. The choir was multi-racial. The camera panned the congregation and people were smiling. Men and women, young and old, black and white, were highlighted by the camera. This was a good church, I thought, briefly. Then the Deacons entered, 70 overweight white men paraded to the front of the sanctuary and sat in the seats of prominence and authority. The people behind the camera knew what made the church appear attractive to the people watching on TV. Women would be allowed to pretty up the place, but they would be restricted to positions of serving and would never be allowed into the rooms where decisions were made.
Here’s a strange story. A friend of mine was teaching the Baptist Sunday School lesson to the children in her class. It was from II Chronicles 34 and was about someone discovering the Book of the Law during Josiah’s reign as King in Jerusalem. Hilkiah the Priest got involved. They called on Huldah the prophetess to get her forecast on what this find meant. Huldah made her prophecy and the priest and the king and the people all seemed to respond appropriately and the story concludes. Since the denomination of the church in which this woman was teaching Sunday School believes that women must submit to men, they left the Huldah part out of the lesson. They just skipped it! What a distortion of Holy Scripture! Let the Bible say what it says.
There is a time to submit and there is a time not to submit. That is the nature of life and that is the truth of Holy Scripture. Queen Vashti did not submit, and good came from it.
Thanks, Lydia, for reminding us that our world, our churches and our families will never be the same because of Strong Women such as you.