My hero.

I must confess. My favorite biblical hero isn’t your ordinary prophet. I don’t swoon over David, or idolize Paul. Though I’m especially fond of Barnabas, he’s not the “cat’s meow.”

My favorite is Abigail.

I like her because she doesn’t fit the normal, acceptable 20th century standards of female behavior. Wise? More than David. Bold? More than Peter. Action oriented? More than Jonathan and his little servant. Honest? Enough to make a politician blush.

Nope. Abigail doesn’t fit in. But that’s okay; I’ve about had it with 20th century standards for femininity.

Where did all this emotion come from? Truthfully, it’s been bubbling away in my consciousness for a long time. But most recently, a friend of mine, doing research for some writing, asked his Facebook friends to comment on “femininity.” And suddenly, Vesuvius found its vent.

What surprised me were all the vague, mild, passive responses my friend received. It got me thinking. What is feminine? And frankly, why does it matter?

I’ve just finished reading 1st and 2nd Corinthians again. And when I think about all of the instructions, warnings and advice for believers in the New Testament, almost none is differentiated on the basis of gender. All of the gifts of the spirit seem to be equally available to both men and women. There is no line item which says, “Women may only teach children.” Neither is there a specification that pastoral, prophetic, discernment, or leadership gifts are given only to men.

As for myself, I don’t think of myself as a woman. I view myself as a soul. I possess traits of both men and women. In the context of “Men are like waffles,” I find that I too have the tendency to restrict my mind to waffle spaces. In many ways, I think like a man. At the same time, I emote like a woman. As to feminine, I don’t especially like dresses (which are never exclusively commanded in scripture). I dislike teas, perfumes and candles. For my birthday, I’d prefer skiing, biking, or rollerblading over some more traditional “girl’s activity.” I’ll never like camping; but I love to hike.

I don’t deny my gender. It just isn’t the center of my attention. That is, until I hear for the fiftieth time that I must embrace some arbitrary version of “femininity” as an expression of my faith. (no kidding; in the 1980s, I attended a class that said wearing flannel to bed was a sin!) And much worse, it becomes the center of my attention when I discover that my gift isn’t welcome in the church because it comes in a female package.

Femininity has become the “subject du jour” of women’s meetings. What it means to be a woman. What it means to have a woman’s ministry. What it means to use our feminine gifts. How much passion the speaker has for women and women’s ministry. And while I understand the scriptural admonition, “Let the older women teach the younger how to love their husbands. . .” I wonder if the reason so many young women are fleeing—in record numbers—from women’s events is because of this endless discussion of what are considered “approved feminine topics.” Approved, but in the larger scope of our battle, incredibly unimportant. It’s a little like the Japanese debating the color of their military uniforms after the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

I have a secret almost antiestablishment question: Is what we discuss in women’s meetings banal, boring and unimportant because we—as women—are not encouraged/allowed/empowered to think about deeper issues?

Is it, as a recent blogger once said, because “Bibles are for boys?”

You see, Abigail would have been kicked out of most women’s meetings. When her husband made the wildly stupid decision to ignore David’s contribution to his sheep “harvest,” her husband’s servants went to Abigail for help. They must have trusted her judgment, must have known she would take action to save them all. She had history with the servants.

Scripture says, “Abigail lost no time. She quickly. . .” She was no shrinking violet. She didn’t go to her husband for advice. She took command.  She had a plan and she executed it. In fact, scripture says that she didn’t even tell her husband what she was doing.

When Abigail spoke to David, she made no effort to cover for her husband’s foolishness. In fact, Abigail called a spade a spade. Like Peter, she may have been the kind of woman who occasionally found her foot firmly planted in her mouth. But she told the truth as she saw it.

And she was a woman who took responsibility. “I accept all blame in this matter,” she said. Her husband’s foolishness was a weakness. It looks, from scripture, as if she regularly protected him from himself. “But I never even saw the messengers you sent.” If she’d seen David’s men first, she implies, she would have diverted this crisis.

Abigail is a woman of words. In a cleverly crafted speech worthy of Churchill, she reminds David of his relationship with the LORD, of God’s care for him, of God’s promises toward David. When she is finished, even David is impressed. “Praise the LORD the God of Israel, who has sent you to meet me today . . . Bless you for keeping me from murdering the man. . . “

Abigail didn’t stay in the background. She didn’t worry about her husband’s “covering.” She wasn’t afraid to speak to a man, to correct a man, to remind a man of God’s promises (whoa, sounds a bit like teaching, doesn’t it?). Abigail knew exactly who she was. She wasn’t ashamed of herself, or of her wisdom. She was not afraid to engage her world, to use her gifts, to change the course of the men around her.

My hero.

This may be the real definition of feminine. “To fully embrace all that I am—without apology, shame, pride, or ridicule—in the presence of both men and women, so that everything I do brings glory to the One who made me.” If that’s what it is to be feminine (please note: no use of fabrics, style, makeup, language, coyness, or seduction –as in Eldridge’s book, Captivating), if it means being honest, real, having integrity, and as Roman’s inspires us, having “sound judgement” about ourselves, then fellas, I’m all girl!

Thanks Abigail

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10 Responses to “My hero.”

  1. rachael Says:

    Amen and amen! Both men and women were created in God’s image and our ‘femininity’ is a refection of God’s character. The roles we stuff each other into as men and women are mostly cultural. And what do we do if a culture is unhealthy? We change it.

    • Bette Nordberg Says:

      Interesting idea Rachael; you are right. Truthfully, Scripture never really defines feminine or masculine. Instead, those narrow definitions are things we try to squeeze out of passages. When I think of women who lived in the most narrow of cultures, I find historical examples of women who didn’t waste time trying to change their culture, instead, they chose to use their energy living out their calling. That’s my goal. I’ll let Jesus sort it out later!

  2. susanmaas Says:

    I’m with you, Bette. I’ve never been a very “feminine” person–maybe growing up with three brothers had something to do with it–but I feel like God made me this way, and I shouldn’t have to fit into someone else’s image of what a woman should be. Thankfully, I married a man who loves me just the way I am. And joined a church where we are free to be ourselves and use the gifts God gave us.

    And I have always liked Abigail, too. She’s one wise woman. 🙂

    • Bette Nordberg Says:

      Susan, how lucky you are! A man who understands and values you as a person is a rare find indeed! And, by the way, I had five brothers. It does have an effect, doesn’t it? I wouldn’t change that upbringing for anything!

  3. Duane J. YOUNG Says:

    There is something about the Spirit of the Lord and the anointing that makes us all equal in different ways.

    • Bette Nordberg Says:

      DJ. I’m not sure I understand what “equal in different ways,” really and truly means. During the civil rights movement, the reply to that would be, “And some are more equal than others.” I interviewed a 90 yo pastor once who said, “During the civil war, the only churches preaching the gospel were the ones who ordained women. This division of men’s and women’s ministry roles has only come about as the church’s responds to the women’s liberation movement.” I can’t tell you how many times my giftedness has been dismissed because it came in a female body. And it was dismissed by the men who claimed to follow Christ. I think there will be a great many pastors in heaven who hear Christ say, “I did send you help. You simply refused it.”

  4. Gloria Penwell Says:

    Y-e-e-s! I always preferred discussing/arguing theology with the guys rather than discussing babies, clothes, or design with the women. I like those girly things, but those discussions about scripture were so much more stimulation.

    • Bette Nordberg Says:

      This doesn’t surprise me about you Gloria. There is one VERY sharp mind under that lovely head of hair! Oh how wonderful it would be if we could come to a place where we live out Galatians 3. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” In the meantime, lets enjoy His word!

  5. Laura Davis Says:

    Bette, thank you for your honest reality check here. I agree 100%.
    So glad I discovered your blog!

    • Bette Nordberg Says:

      Laura,The funny thing here is that I had no clue that so many women are feeling these things too. You and I are not the only ones. I have been wounded. I never wanted to “lead men,” to be a “pastor,” etc. I only want to use what I have in a way that fully demands everything I have — all my energy, excellence, concentration and effort. Sadly, it would be easier if I had the gift of teaching children, or leading worship in children’s church. However, if I did that, the young families in our body would abandon ship with a rapidity that would make rats shake their heads! Thanks for visiting my blog. I appreciate it!

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