July 30, 2012

Abused and Afraid


Every woman struggles with it. We just mask it in different ways. Some of us hide our fear behind our sense of humors, some of us behind our shyness, others behind our weight (fat or skinny), some behind weird obsessions, others behind our accomplishments and some behind our children and/or friends. We are loud, quiet, fierce, competitive, controlling, pushovers, timid, overbearing, nice, obnoxious, and arrogant due to fear. We are afraid.

Honestly, as women, we have a lot to fear. We are the weaker vessel, which simply means we are designed differently than men. Someone has to lead in relationships and God deemed man to do so. This was not an indictment on women. No ladies, we have an incredible role to play in the lives of men…whether those men be our husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, or friends. We are the “Help-Meet”, a term used for God Himself in the Old Testament. We are the ones who come through and rescue the men in our lives when there is no one else and no where else for them to turn. And like Jesus Christ submitted humbly to God the Father, we must be submissive to the men in our lives (not dangerously or sinfully so). When the man leads as God designed him to and the woman loves and respects her husband, both feel safe and nurtured and live full and peaceful lives. However, being the “weaker vessel” in a male-dominated, sin-infested world is scary as Hell. Women are taken advantage of physically, emotionally, sexually and spiritually every day. We have a lot to fear.

God knew in deeming us as the weaker-vessel that we would be offended and/or just plain scared.

Ladies, some of you have been physically, emotionally, and/or sexually abused by men…and some of you by men you trusted. Others of you have husbands and/or fathers who did not provide for your family. Instead, they were lazy, irresponsible little boys who never grew to be men. And as a result, you don’t trust men (and I don’t blame you). You fight and are offended by the term “weaker-vessel” because to you, men are weaker-vessels due to the fact that they can’t control their anger, sexual appetites, manipulation, or laziness. I hurt for you. Please realize that God never intended this to be. He intended for men to care, love, nurture, and provide for you (deep down, that’s what every woman craves). He never meant for you to be both mommy and daddy. He never meant for you to self-medicate your pain and hide your scars. He never meant for you to act and look tough so men didn’t take advantage of you. He never meant for that. But intentions don’t make the pain go away and the enemy convinces us that we have to protect ourselves. That God won’t come through. That He doesn’t care. And so we build false identities fueled by our fear.  

I love Hebrews 11. In verse 6, we are told, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” The chapter continues with highlights from various men and woman who had extraordinary faith. Verse 11 caught me: “By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered Him faithful Who had promised.” If you know anything about Sarah, you know she was not a perfect woman and she did not always consider God faithful. In fact, she was like most of us. She had been taken advantage of several times, which caused her faith in God to waver…a lot. Here’s her story.

In Genesis 12, Abraham and Sarah travel to Egypt due to a famine in their own land. Abraham knows that the Egyptians are going to find Sarah beautiful and may kill him to get her, so in order to save his own life, he tells her to lie and to say that she is his sister. She agrees and is taken in by Pharaoh. Verse 16 makes me mad, “And for her sake he (Pharaoh) dealt well with Abraham; and he (Abraham) had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels.” What the?! Abraham not only saved his own life at the expense of his wife’s sexuality, but he also made out with material possessions…all while she is being groomed and prepared to be taken into Pharaoh. Miraculously God intervenes on Sarah’s behalf before Pharaoh can touch her. But can you imagine the shame, fear, insecurity, anger, lack of trust, hurt and vulnerability she must have felt when reunited with her husband? He didn’t fight for her. He gave her away…to protect himself. She was neglected.

Later, in Genesis 16, Sarah is growing impatient with God’s promise for a son. Maybe it’s because she had been lied to by a man before. Or maybe her false identity of beauty wasn’t holding up for her in a culture where male heirs were everything. All I know is she told Abraham to sleep with her servant and he agrees. Once again, no fight on his part. I wonder if Sarah wasn’t being manipulative…you know the games we play as women? Was she hoping Abraham’s faith in God was greater than hers and that he would step up and lead this time? Was she hoping that he would honor her more than his own well-being and reputation and fight for her? I’m sure she probably was. Because after Hagar gives birth to Ishmael, Sarah takes out her insecurity and pain on Hagar. Sarah was rejected.

In Genesis 18, Sarah overhears a conversation between God and Abraham about the promised son. She laughs. Her fear is now masked by her sense of humor. She was disillusioned. But God knew. God understood. And a few chapters later (21), Sarah gives birth to Isaac.

If I left the story there, you would think God wouldn’t have anything nice to say about either Sarah or Abraham. I mean, talk about dysfunction. And yet, all of this dysfunction ultimately gives birth to a miracle of faith. Abraham would offer Isaac as a sacrifice, and Sarah would be honored as a woman who was submissive to her husband and did not give way to fear.

“For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham…So you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” (1 Peter 3:5-6).

Wow. What a commendation Sarah receives from God. And what an encouragement to us as men and women. Abraham and Sarah weren’t even close to perfect. In fact, most of the first part of Genesis is spent highlighting their failures. And yet, we know that the rest of their story must have been one of profound faith, otherwise God, Who does not lie, would not have hallmarked both Abraham and Sarah in the “Hall of Faith”. Not because they were saints, but because God is gracious and redeems our sin and our pain. He gives fresh starts. His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3).

And yet I think God chooses to share the weaknesses of His chosen vessels (men and women) with us so that we do not get discouraged and feel like we can’t measure up. God knows. He sees (Exodus 2:25 ESV). We are going to fail. We are going to get scared and live behind false identities. And yet He offers us a healing solution: Hope in Him. Trust in the Unseen. Believe with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength that this sinful world was never His intention. Trust that in spite of this perverse world, He offers security, protection, healing, renewal, fresh starts, more grace. But we are left with a choice. Will we submit to Him? Will we choose to lay aside our false identities (men and women alike) and to be nakedly vulnerable before the only One Who can and will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us (1 Peter 5:10)? Will we allow His kindness to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4)? The choice is up to us. Beth Moore says, “If your faith is based on what God is doing, you are in for the scariest ride of your life.” But, if your faith is based on Who God is, you will have an secure Anchor in a life that violently tosses and turns us (Hebrews 6:19). It is scary. But I promise, it is worth it.