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Between The Lines

In Uncategorized on December 18, 2009 at 12:13 pm

Today’s challenge: write out a profile that most accurately describes the modern Christian woman. Who is she? What does she look like? What does she do? Is she defined by her religious denomination, her social status, her geography or a combination of all three? Does she look differently from you, or is she an exact reflection?

I conducted this exercise myself and honestly, I found it difficult. I ended up with two lists, both extreme. The one list was an idealization of the perfect Christian woman as taught to us in Psalm 31 and the other was a condemnation of the imperfect Christian woman as taught to us by our local church. Neither profile settled well with me as being the most accurate reflection of a modern Christian woman and this troubled me even further.

To fully encapsulate the perfection of the one list while completely shedding the accusations of the other would be impossible, not only for a woman in this day and age, but for any woman of any era in time. And then I got to thinking about the past and those great females who have traversed this earth in the name of Christ before us. How did they reconcile the spiritual dissonance of being both sinner and saint in tandem without allowing the din of their personal contradictions to impede them in their work for God? What can we learn from them in order to be free from the shackles of guilt and shame that we drag along with us in our perfectly imperfect lives?

I pondered these questions as I looked into the life of a woman who knew the true meaning of the words “bondage”, “guilt” and “shame”. She was born into slavery during the early part of the nineteenth century and given the name Araminta Ross. In her mid twenties, she brazenly escaped the clutches of slavery, seized her freedom in the north, and christened herself Harriet Tubman to mark her new life.

Harriet was not satisfied with merely seizing her own liberty. She was determined to go back into the land of captivity and rescue, not only her family, but as many other slaves as God would deem possible. Before Lincoln could bring about political liberty to those enchained, Harriet Tubman personally lead over 300 hundred slaves out of captivity into the arms of freedom. This is how Harriet became known as the Moses of her people and why so many abolitionists revered her as a prophet from God whose courage surpassed even some of the heartiest of men. But when fawned over for her great feats of personal bravery, Harriet would quickly correct the intended compliment by saying that faith was the armor she wore, not courage.

At first glance, you might conclude Harriet to belong to the idealized list of perfected feminine Christianity, but a more careful inspection will enlighten your spirit to the fact that Harriet was no more a vessel of womanly perfection than you or I breathing air today. For one thing, Harriet was academically uneducated and though it was common for most ex-slaves to try to learn how to read and write once they became free, Harriet felt that for her, the effort was a waste of time. She reasoned her time was best-spent conducting expeditions on The Underground Railroad than learning to read and write. Along with her lack of basic education, she also had to manage the burden of chronic migraine headaches, and random seizures; which became more than merely inconvenient on her clandestine winter treks. On top of her resolve to ignore physical obstacles, Harriet also endured the danger of her fugitive status. She was so successful in stealing slaves from the South, that the southern authorities placed one of the highest price tags on her head. As if being considered a fugitive of the law, illiterately ignorant and unpredictably handicapped weren’t enough, Harriet could never deny that her own personal freedom came at a very high emotional cost. Due to the immeasurable risk involved in fleeing captivity, Harriet decided not to tell anyone in her family, including her husband, that she was going to flee. Without ere an explanation or apology, Harriet disappeared and left behind her entire family, with God as her only comfort to carry her through the dangerous trek alone up north. Though, over the course of the next ten years, Harriet would personally see to the rescue of as many family members as possible via the UGRR, she was not able to locate and rescue everyone and was broken hearted to discover that her husband, John Tubman, remarried another woman.

Yes, Harriet Tubman, was courageous, valiant, strong and faithful to the call of God but she was also inescapably human. So how is it possible that Harriet was able to accomplish so much in the name of God in spite of herself? I believe the secret to her walk with God was in the fact that Harriet never once calculated her personal inadequacies into the equation of her decision to follow God. She never said, “I know what God wants me to do but before I go I have to go to school and get the know-how, I have to seek a doctor and get full healing, I have to make things right with my family, I have to wait until the politics change so I can legally move forward.” She never made those calculations. She just obeyed God and walked in her calling. Regardless of the consequence her personal lack could cause her, she trusted that God would cinch up her shortcomings and honor her desire to give to others out of the blessing she herself was given.

So who are we as Christian women today? Are we forever shackled to the spiritual dissonance of being both sinner and saint in tandem? Or is it possible to achieve a peaceful state of God-led spirituality by just being who we are? The conclusion I am forming is “yes”, it is not only possible to be perfectly imperfect without the baggage of guilt and shame; it is also possible for God to use us mightily regardless of where we fall between the lines on our contradictory lists. Women of God, scripture tells us we are surrounded by a cloud-of-witnesses who are cheering us on in our journey. Peer closely into that crowd and you can see Harriet Tubman standing among them. She is triumphantly calling to us all, “Daughters, be Free! Be free and bring freedom!”

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  1. Am I allowed to be humbled by my own daughter? I sit here at my office desk with tears streaming down my eyes. This was so well done and insightful! For one moment I would like to be stranger.

  2. It is very hard to be a Christian woman and sacrifice our integrity to men who though say they trust the Lord, they choose to do things contrary to His perfect love.
    Does being a Christian woman mean to crucify ourselves? No! Jesus already did that!
    Being a Christian woman means to breath, drink, think, and follow Him, and only Him, not trying to get away with our decisions, but trusting our decisions are guided by Him and praying everyday that we can give love despite ourselves… and receive love with open arms, despite ourselves.

  3. I have to chime in with Liz. This was just beautifully written. Thank you!

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