Go Ahead, be the Smart One

Gentle Reader,

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.

Enter Abigail.

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.

David Guzik, quoting F.B. Meyer

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.

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Five Minute Friday: Surrender

Ezer

Gentle Reader,

This whole “stories” feature that’s part of social media now? Drives me nuts.

For the confused: Facebook and Instagram (Zuckerberg is master of both, so Facegram? Instabook?) attempt to compete with Snapchat and so allow users to upload photos that will disappear within a certain number of hours. These photos are shuffled off into a separate feed called a “story.” These “stories” usually have some kind of brightly-colored notification circle around them, which indicates that the user has uploaded a new photo or video.

How irritating this is to someone who feels a constant, unending compulsion to clear all notifications ever from any online thing in which she participates.

But maybe today I’m just cranky about the existence of the mighty internet in general. The noise. The constant noise. Yes, I realize that I’m using the internet to complain about the internet. The Luddite and the Futurist parts of myself, at war, as usual. Throw the laptop out the window while streaming music on the smartphone.

Kate says: surrender.

Go.

I am tired.

Not the physical sort of tired (I’m always that) but the mentally and emotionally sort of tired that arises out of being a woman.

Yeah, men have problems, too. Sure. No denying that.

But, oh, this world, this time, its closet doors flung open and the skeletons of sexual assault tumbling all about the place. Except they aren’t skeletons. They are real, live, breathing people, forced to walk around bearing wounds that should never have been inflicted.

The effects of your actions are far reaching. Abuse goes way beyond the moment, often haunting survivors for the rest of their lives, making it difficult to trust and impacting their relationships. … I am here to face you, Larry, so you can see I’ve regained my strength, that I am no longer a victim, I am a survivor.

Aly Raisman Testimony

This world where some honestly wonder whether or not women should be “allowed” to teach in seminary. We’re not unintelligent or lacking in skill, but Piper says we shouldn’t, because…well, who really knows what his reason is. Certainly not a Scriptural one.

Women in seminary shouldn’t have to be the smartest people in the room. If a male student is both respected as an individual and expected to become an effective minister of the gospel despite a C average, then a female student should be offered the same respect and hope for her future.

 The Post‘s Most Important Contribution Isn’t about Freedom of the Press

This world in which, statistically speaking, it’s always more dangerous to be a woman.

It’s tempting to give up.

To surrender.

But we can’t.

I can’t.

Because while it’s dangerous to be a woman, while we have to fight off things our brothers never have to deal with, we are also the ezer kenegdo. Made by God. The equal strength and power of man. Like Thor’s brother Loki, burdened with glorious purpose. We are the Daughters of the Living God, the Princess Warriors, the Steel Magnolias.

We do not quit.

We do not surrender.

Women in general, including evangelical women, are in no mood to be marginalized in society, church, or seminary. The issue is far more serious than women simply wanting a place at the table. The current cost of marginalizing women is proving to be calamitous.

– Why John Piper Needs Help from Female Seminary Professors

Stop.

Related to the opening, here’s a fascinating article about Facebook.

Related to the main post, here’s this screed from a Missouri Senate candidate.

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Five Minute Friday: Reflect

2014

Gentle Reader,

Jumping right in. Kate asks us to: reflect.

Go.

I’ve got the biggest scar of them all.

Tomorrow marks one year since I became my own Discovery Channel. The surgeon sliced me open and stuck a jack underneath my ribs. Yes, you read that right. A jack. Cranked the whole set up and out of the way so he could spend five hours carefully cutting out the golf ball-sized tumor that was pressed against my diaphragm, making every breath tedious and painful. At least I thought the tumor made breathing painful.

Janky ribs? Way worse.

Certain sections of my scar still hurt sometimes. I think its affected by barometric pressure. Someday I might be able to tell you when rain is coming. Other sections, and the surrounding area, I can’t feel. The nerves are dead and may never come back. Incredibly weird sensation. (Or rather, lack thereof).

The little round scar, I call that my bullet hole. That’s where the drain was. Cripe o’Friday, having that thing removed hurt like a son of something unholy. The surgeon actually braced himself before he pulled. And had the nerve to tell me, “Oh, this won’t be so bad.”

Right.

There are other marks, but only I notice them anymore. One on my back, where the fabulous spinal block kept me from feeling the first and most intense pain. One on my neck, where they plunged a central line straight into the jugular vein.

The journey isn’t over for me. Just this week I’ve been going rounds with headaches, dizziness and nausea. Don’t mess with the liver, man. Just don’t. It will slap your face. Dark circles rim my eyes from lack of sleep. I don’t have much of an appetite yet am as bloated as if I’ve eaten far too much. I could happily glare at and say something snarky to the size six girls who “feel fat.” Probably wouldn’t even feel the slightest guilt about it.

I don’t have perfect skin. I don’t have a flat belly.

You know what else I don’t have?

A tumor.

There are not words enough in the dictionary for me to express my deep gratitude to the Lord for seeing me through this valley. He has been faithful when I have cried and raged and sulked and slipped into despair. He has spoken words of tender encouragement. Smacked me upside the head when necessary. This road seems endless and full of far too many twists. It is bearable because of Him. His goodness, His grace.

I praise Him. I love Him.

And I thank Him for giving me a sense of humor when I saw a few too many man butts as I lapped around the surgical floor, outpaced by slugs as I dragged poles and walkers in my wake.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

These Words of Mine

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

I’m not serious enough for the academy. Nor am I funny enough to go into comedy. Too liberal for my conservative friends and too conservative for the liberal ones. A Christian and a feminist in a time and place when many think the two cannot coexist. It’s a strange space in which to dwell.

This is on my mind today because people have asked me recently why I write the way I do. Why a piece on a Monday bordering on (but never quite crossing into) the academic followed by a piece on a Friday in the style of a stream-of-consciousness journal entry? Why the polemical cozied up to the fluffy? Why the sarcasm tucked into the serious?

I don’t think about my “craft” or “art” that often. (Seems awfully pretentious to use those terms in relation to these little scribbles). I don’t consider the why or the ways. Rarely do I plan or outline. I sit down, I write. That’s it.

My version of thinking out loud, I suppose.

The juxtaposition of the deep and the wide, the theological and the absurd, the reflective and the shallow found here isn’t an attempt to be either clever or jarring. I don’t know how to write any other way because I don’t know how to think any other way. Yes, let’s talk Kierkegaard and textual criticism and politics and then in the next breath shout “irregardless!” in the affected Southie accent of Sully and Denise. (Thank you, Tina Fey). Let’s hopscotch from Jonah’s anger to the unabashed delight found in eating a fresh chocolate chip cookie. Let’s intensely study the role of women in church and society and then riff on that weird thing that one dude said.

Maybe it’s a little manic. I don’t know. I just can’t handle being serious all the time. I can’t. The bent of my nature is toward the gloom and the doom. A certain heaviness always weighs upon me. If I don’t tackle the sunlight and the laughter, I’m done for. I know that there are important issues. I know that things are happening. I know that responses must be weighed, measured and crafted. I understand the responsibility found in casting my words to the wind.

Yet I believe that silliness is a must. We need silly. We need fun. We need to laugh so hard that the sound ceases and the tears of happiness roll. Without the precious gift of humor, we’ll be swallowed up and washed away by tsunamis of fear and bitterness. And just what would be the point of that?

I wonder what might happen if we began to be known for our smiles instead of our frowns. Again, I know. We have responsibilities. We bear the Gospel message. We must stand for justice. There are bills to pay and kids to raise and relationships to tend. There are deadlines and housework and doctor visits. Hard, bad things happen and we suffer.

But what if, somehow, all of it was navigated with a smile, a chuckle and a gentle hand? What if we moved about on this earth as people who understand that joy – even happy – is a good thing? A necessary thing? As people who understand that faith and sour expressions are not meant to go together?

I do not mean denial or hiding. What we need to do is give ourselves permission to giggle. To unplug from all the deep, heavy stuff and sigh with laughter. The deep, heavy stuff will be there later. Just for a moment, set it down. Let it go. Throw your arms open and do a ridiculous little dance. Poke fun at the big, scary thing.

God knows we’ll be crushed if we don’t laugh. Wit and sarcasm are liberally sprinkled throughout the Bible. And have you seen some of the animals out there? Ridiculous.

Sometimes we just need a release. We can come back to the important things later. We need to pause and say, “This is so weird and I’m tickled over it.” Like a bright little buoy bouncing on choppy seas.

That’s why I write the way I do.

My journey to faith. (15)