Wineskins Archive

December 3, 2013

Not on the List (Feb 2013)

Filed under: — @ 3:21 pm and

By Jennifer Gerhardt

At the table with my daughters I flip open my Bible to the book of Numbers. The girls fill lions and fish with primary-colored crayon strokes while I glance over a page crammed with names and, yes, numbers.

Zebulun, Pagiel, Okran, Ithamar, Libni, Mahli and Mushi.

46,500 and 59,300 and 74,600.

Moses and Aaron count God’s men. I read over and over “the men,” “the men,” “the men”…

I look closely for women and I see them between the lines in words like “families” and “clans”: mothers and daughters and wives, the cement between consonants and vowels.

But I don’t see their names, and they are not counted.

And that seems a shame.

It’s not always easy to read the Bible as a girl. Oh, we may love it. I love it. I read the Bible like a hungry lion over a fresh kill. Or like a girl with a long-awaited letter from a far-off love. I come alive by it. I meet my God in it.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not complicated sometimes, that it’s not hard to watch as Moses lists a thousand men’s names, never mentioning those men’s sisters.

I read Leviticus last month and realized for the very first time that priests had wives. Wives aren’t explicitly mentioned in the text but sons are and you can’t have a son without a wife. I would have missed the wives altogether if I hadn’t noticed a textual aside concerning priests’ divorced or widowed daughters.

Priests had wives.

I have never, in all my years imagining, thought about a priestly wife cleaning the carnage from a flesh-stained altar or lying awake at night listening to her husband describe a moment in the holy of holies. What would it have been like?

That is the question so often in my head as I read the Bible: What would it have been like to be a woman walking with God?

What kind of Psalm would Abigail have written?

How would Esther have told her story?

What would a woman say about Jesus, Immanuel?

The Bible is, in so many ways, about man’s walk with God—not because God only walked with man but because men wrote the Bible. I am not offended by the point of view. Historically speaking, it makes perfect sense. Men wrote. Women, rarely taught even to read, did not. And so, men wrote about life with God. And women spoke about it. And ink existed long before the tape recorder.

Writing today from my table, my girls now long in bed, having prayed to their Heavenly Father and blessed their earthly mother, I say from my heart that I have no complaints about the Word of God. It is the inspired Word for all mankind and it speaks to the deepest parts of me, convicting me and touching me. I only wish to say out loud that it’s sometimes hard to look at your sleeping daughters and know, for whatever reason, their names would not have been on Moses’ list.

I have no tidy bow for the end of this reflection. I’ve known God for long enough to know He’s not a tidy bow kind of God.

I do, however, want to say something to loosen the knot, if only the one in my stomach.

First, God’s list looks different than Moses.’ I know that for sure.

Second, in the Bible I do occasionally hear the voices of women. I hear Mary say, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant” and I am reminded that God has always been mindful of us.

Third, I know the story being written about today’s church will be different than the one in Numbers. It will be different because of who’s writing it.

Like so many women, I type words onto blank pages and the words I type tell stories of what it looks like for a woman to walk with God. I, we make lists and name names.

We grab pens and scribble praise. We blog our divine encounters.

We publish books about mothering and wife-ing and working and serving and being. We compose songs and write poems, remembering, heralding, and celebrating the mighty, wise, and courageous daughters of God.

And with that I’ve typed myself into a full-face smile and a deep-down joy, knowing my God loves me, my God has always loved me, and my God even now speaks to and through me, a girl.

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