09 January 2016

Shallum's Daughters: Called

"Next to him Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs, he and his daughters." (Nehemiah 3:12)

A call has gone out: "Who will come
rebuild the city of the Lord?
Who will restore our ruined home
back to her glories from of old?"

I heard the call, and here I am,
even though I am no man,
to help rebuild Jerusalem.
I heard the call, and I obeyed -
so do not turn me now away,
but let me in God's service stay.

A call has gone out - who are we
to limit God in whom He sends?
On men and women equally
He pours His Spirit from His throne.
The giver of our gifts is He;
He chooses who fulfills His ends.
The work we do is His alone -
you looked for men, and He sent me.

I heard the call, and I have come
a woman working for her Lord.
So let us now restore our home
back to her glories from of old.


[2./9. January 2016]

Shallum's daughters are women included in the list of builders in Nehemiah 3. I find them a great example of how we need to drop gender stereotyping. There are no such things as "men's jobs" and "women's jobs" - I believe instead we ought to be thinking in terms of gifts and talents. There are certain gifts that are more common to the one sex or the other - but if someone has gifts and a calling, they are not to be suppressed because of our stereotypes. Because what God is interested in (I believe) is our gifts and calling, not the boundaries set by society. Often what we imagine as men's or women's roles are cultural - you can see that quite plainly when comparing with traditional roles in other countries (did you know that in many African groups it is traditionally the women who work the fields, not the men?).

I believe God gives His Spirit, as well as gifts and calling, on men and women equally (Joel 2:28-29). Women are sometimes given gifts that lead them to do "men's jobs" - and it would be a sin to bury their talents. Shallum's daughters helped rebuild the wall of Jerusalem after the return from the Exile. And I believe in doing so they were living out their passion for God - and listening more to God than to the dictates of their culture.

In the background of this is a little something I picked up while researching for my bachelor thesis about women in missions (there used to be controversies over whether women, especially single women, should be allowed to be missionaries at all):
"[T]hey would regularly pray for men – and for pioneer work, they usually meant men – but in a strange way, which they were slow to accept as a divine answer to their prayers, a considerable number of women usually completed the numbers." (Valerie Griffiths, Not Less Than Everything, 2004 - good book!)
God does not always give us what we expect! And very often in history, where men were expected, God sent women!
Another sentence I like to quote from my bachelor research is this one from "Miss Fielde", a baptist missionary to China (which I found in an old missionary journal from the 1870s!):
"A true Christianity can never debar woman from showing her gratitude to her saviour by setting Him forth as the true and sufficient Helper of her sex, both for the life that now is and the life that is to come."
 So yes... don't limit God. Don't tell women not to do men's jobs. Because firstly: men's jobs and women's jobs are culturally relative. And secondly: the Spirit blows where He chooses.

(I'm usually too lazy and uncreative to try meter and rhyme, but after reading some of Emily Brontë's poems last night I felt ashamed of the fact, so here's a rare one that rhymes and has a kind of tetrameter - with some irregularities of course because I'm too impatient for this kind of thing)

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