She was an intelligent and beautiful woman…
– 1 Samuel 25:3b (NIV)
This little character comment is tucked into a story of foolish stubbornness and near disaster. David, not yet king and on the run from Saul, decides to kill a man and his entire household after this man refuses him the hospitality so prized in that culture. An extreme reaction on David’s part, yes, but the situation could have been avoided if Nabal hadn’t lived up to his name.
She stands in stark contrast to the man she married. Her quick thinking preserved many lives.
It is remarkable how many Abigails get married to Nabals. God-fearing women, tender and gentle in the sensibilities, high-minded and noble in their ideals, become tied in an indissoluble union with men for whom they can have no true affinity, even if they have not an unconquerable repugnance.
It is both natural and logical to look at the marriage of Abigail and Nabal as a central element of the narrative; very much a, “Be careful who you marry, ladies,” conclusion drawn. (Of course, Abigail probably had very little say in the matter). This, though not incorrect, is quite a narrow view, however. There is something more to learn.
The first word used to describe Abigail is “intelligent.” She was smart. A thinker. Wise. The author goes on to mention her beauty, but this is not his primary concern. Abigail is not praised for having a pretty face or wearing nice clothes. Her honor is found in how she uses her mind.
Before you mistake me: There’s nothing wrong with beauty. It’s God-designed and given. No woman needs to feel bad about wearing make-up or going shopping. All too often we are belittled for such enjoyments. You are not reading that here.
What you are reading is a call to cease being ashamed of being smart.If Abigail hadn’t stepped out that day, the arc of history might look different, for who knows what roles the people of her household had to play? If she had chosen to keep quiet, to stay hidden, the story would have ended on a jarring note. People would have died, David would have detracted from his own reputation for justice and fairness, and she would not be remembered as a hero.
But she didn’t do that.
She took the brave path.
I can’t remember the first time someone communicated to me that my intelligence was bothersome. I do know that I was competing with a few boys for top grades when I was in fourth grade. They constantly told me that I’d never be able to beat them, because girls just weren’t as smart as boys. All those comments did was make me angry and strengthened my resolve to win. But then I got to middle school, the worst years in the life of every person, and my sense of identity began to falter. People didn’t like the smart girl.
So began a decades-long and not-yet-complete wrestling with myself. This is why I’ve deleted all of my social media posts more than once. This plays into the temptation to quit writing. I don’t want to stand out. I don’t want to be center stage. I don’t want to ace the tests. I don’t want to be the one who sees things differently, who tries to synthesize what she knows of life and theology into a complete and consistent worldview.
And yet, here we are.
Here I am.
Because this is who God made me to be.
I’ve never shared the exact number of people who subscribe to these words (and I never will), but it’s grown to an amount far beyond anything I ever imagined. There are hundreds of you opening up your inbox just to see what I have to say. People of all ages and experiences. Truly, a frightening reality, but one which I wish to steward well.
So, hear me: Go ahead, be the smart one.
Ladies, your mind is there for a reason.
Men, her mind doesn’t make your mind lesser.
I have lost too many days and wasted too much energy in worrying over and feeling bad about being the smart girl. No more.
The world needs Abigails. Not to squash or dominate, but to speak truth and act in grace. Your Creator made you for this. Exercising your intelligence brings Him glory. No, others aren’t always going to like it. Yes, you may find yourself on a lonely path from time to time. Keep on. Do as the Holy Spirit leads.
May you be blessed in your obedience.