The question was very simple and the already confused audience frowned in response. It was a miracle they didn’t storm out of the room yelling, “No! Stop! We give up!”
The truth is Nigerians are used to linear learning and I am a proud rambler. You need to just connect the dots when I am expressing my thoughts on an issue and God bless you if it is something I am passionate about. And unlucky for this audience, on that day, there was going to be no middle ground in my talk.
At this forum where the above mentioned audience was seated, I was speaking about being a woman in a patriarchal society and the deal was to crack open very closed minds. I first argued with the philosophical side of things then I dove into the Christian side. This is a major crutch for people that do not want equality between women and men; so they twist religion to justify their stand and I was going to challenge that stand.
The first question was, “How many of you have heard preached in your church multiple times that wisdom in the bible was given female attributes, called a she and described as a woman?”
Not a single hand went up.
Then I followed up with, “How many of you have heard preached in your church, multiple times, that the ideal role of a woman is to submit to her husband?”
All hands went up including mine.
After which I asked why there is such an imbalance in teaching about what should be the makeup of a woman, especially when the bible takes time to talk about these things. I also wondered why the church doesn’t see how beneficial it is to use what the bible says about wisdom to encourage women to be wise. And it is more confusing, considering these are the group of people expected to uphold the moral fabric of the family.
It is indeed baffling not only because of the immense benefits of wisdom clearly written in the bible; it is akin to finding life.
Proverbs 8:35-36, “For whoever finds wisdom, finds life and obtains favor from the lord but he who sins against wisdom wrongs his own soul; all those who hate wisdom love death”.
These are pretty strong and set words for embracing wisdom so why doesn’t the church encourage it. And if we are doing things by the book, then why not encourage women to embrace the attributes that wisdom offers especially since wisdom is identified as female.
Another under-told story in the bible, is that of Huldah in 2 Chronicles 34. The good king Josiah had found a book lying neglected in the temple and who does he send it to with a delegation to be verified as the book of the law, the prophet Huldah, wife of Shallum (v. 22). She is basically the first bible verifier/interpreter.
I truly feel if it were up to some pastors, they would rewrite this chapter.
In their version, the story written would begin with Huldah being the good and submissive wife that she was, going to her husband first and consulting with him. She would ask his permission to speak of what she knew; like the good humble wife she was. And he would in turn say, “Go ahead wife, bring honor to my name”, then she would reply to the delegation saying, “with my husband’s permission, let me tell you what I know…”.
Honestly I got exhausted writing that out. This is what some pastors would love to preach but since the bible can’t be rewritten, it is all together an abandoned topic.
On a side note, Huldah’s husband’s occupation or rank in society wasn’t mentioned but it was noted that he was the grandson of the keeper of the temple robes. This makes me wonder a lot.
What the story of Huldah tells me however, is that in marriage there is a place for submission as there also is a place for independence. Submission probably has to do with the decision making for the family (I’m guessing since I am not married) which makes sense because every outfit should have a leader.
Independence has to do with making the most of the gifts, talents and abilities in you, since you alone are going to answer (and answer you must) for the use or misuse of it. Again, this is not something preached to women because in our society, right next to the fear of hell is the fear of giving women a voice.
The argument is when you give a woman a voice she becomes disrespectful, arrogant and forgets her place. Yep, the word ‘place’ has been used countless times to my hearing. It is a miracle we do not have women walking about extremely dizzy from being bombared about not knowing their place; all because we have an opinion or want to contribute.
Still, nobody knows where this place is or what we are meant to do there. But one thing is clear; silence built the foundation and walls of this place.
This directly contradicts what I understand wisdom to be according to the book of Proverbs. Wisdom is everywhere calling out, raising her voice in invitation because of the life in her words. She instructs, corrects, rebukes, teaches and gives knowledge.
Even the virtous woman in Proverbs 31 (a darling favorite of Nigerian Pastors) is not a silent bystander, vs 26, “When she speaks her words are wise and she gives instruction with kindness.”
Silence and submission is what as women we are encouraged to embrace as our lives motto but this is not God’s standard for us. He also wants us to be wise, kind, full of knowledge, gracious, loving and a host of other things. Most importantly he wants us, male or female to make the most of the gifts he has given us.
Light is meant to be on a lampstand and shine for the world not hidden under a bushel; it has no function in that manner… under the bushel – Matthew 5:14-16
This is my understanding of who I am meant to be as a Christian woman and I am sticking to it .
You may also want to read my long post on How to survive a patriarchal society as a woman and get the picture of the other side of things.