Jeremiah 31:21-22: “Set up road signs; put up guideposts. Take note of the highway, the road that you take. Return, O Virgin Israel, return to your towns. How long will you wander, O unfaithful daughter? The LORD will create a new thing on earth – a woman will surround a man.”
After three hours of research, and a good deal of laughter at the number of world-renowned scholars who simply say, “I have no idea what this means,” I feel that while I may not know any more than they do about the actual meaning of the passage, I have learned a lot more about myself.
Verse 21 seems pretty obvious to me: it simply states that where you’ve been is important, and that going home will probably involve retracing your steps. For Israel, it was literal – they walked back home after the exile on the same roads they’d walked on the way into it. For us, it’s a little more figurative: how many of us have found that the very things in our lives that have been the toughest are the things God has used to help us help others?
Verse 22 gets a little more complicated. “A woman will surround a man.” This can also be translated “a woman will go about seeking a man” or “a woman will protect a man.” The commentators who dared touch it mostly agree that what the verse is getting at is a role reversal of sorts. Traditionally, men were the leaders in Israeli culture. God, in a typical upside-downing-of-expectations, made it clear that women were going to have a role they hadn’t had before. So whether you read the verse as an analogy (a woman seeking a man paralleling the idea that Israel will finally get her butt in gear and be faithful to God) or as an outright and bawdy proverb about sex, what it comes down to is that women will be given by God the authority, the right, the ability to lead – in ways that historically before He said this, they weren’t.
In theory I am totally okay with that; I even think it’s kind of cool – but I’ve found that practically, as it applies specifically to me – a woman of God, gifted and called to lead in specific arenas – I’ve been hesitant to step out. Why? Well, honestly, a lot of it boils down to self-esteem. Not seeing myself the way God does. Believing a lot of lies, both culturally and personally, about what my role is supposed to be. I grew up dreaming of the American fairy tale life: go to college (maybe), get married, have the 2.5 kids and a white picket fence, live happily ever after. It was all I wanted, and I wasted a good portion of my college career flunking out of the MRS program. 10 years later, still single, and almost 32, I am coming to terms with the fact that I have not embraced (or even had the guts to ask God) what His dreams are for my life, because I have been holding out for an illusion. I wanted, quite frankly, to be one of the supermoms on a 1950s sitcom, with the perfect family, the perfect hair, the perfect resolution to any conflict, and the perfect life.
So when I actually took time to curl my hair yesterday and it came out all wrong and made me look like Donna Reed, I decided to go for it. I wore a skirt for the first time in almost a year, added pearls, high heels and a conservative sweater, and walked out the front door, feeling unusually fabulous for no particular reason. I went to the library and read commentaries on Jeremiah and journaled for four and a half hours – and it was great, but I walked out of it feeling very confused and disoriented. As I read and studied yesterday, it became evident to me that my dream for my life has changed; this is good, but I’m not sure when it happened, how, or why – hence the disorientation.
My friend Chris came to rescue me from the library and my potentially endless introspective tendencies, and we went for a walk and a talk that I already suspect will mark a turning point in my emergence. I was talking about the reluctance I feel in stepping out into the leadership roles God’s called me to, and reflecting on how ten years ago, all I wanted was to meet the right guy and spend the rest of my life barefoot and pregnant. I wanted to be someone’s shadow; I wanted to stay home; I wanted to raise my sons to be good leaders and my daughters to be good wives. Donna, Harriet, June, Happy. “Seen and not heard?” he asked. “Well, yes,” I said. “I didn’t think I had anything to say.” Which I didn’t really know until I said it.
He looked me in the eye and said, “Hap, you do have something to say, and this is just me, and you can tell me if you think this is a load of crap, but I think there’s a part of you that still wants to be seen and not heard, and you need to get over it.”
He’s right. I do. After years and years of wanting nothing more than to hide in the shadows, after months of wrestling with the truth that God has gifted and called me to leadership not in spite of the fact that I am a woman, but because of it, I am finally ready to admit it. Almost. So now the question is: what is it that I have to say?
Simple Felicity is, at its heart, a blog based on the unshakeable belief that happiness really isn't all that complicated. Sometimes finding it can be - but happiness itself is pretty simple, and it's often found in the simplest of things: good food, good books, and good company. So those are the things I write about, along with a few other things that really matter to me, including faith and feminism.
A bit about me: My name is Happy. I have an amazing talent for misplacing my keys, a deep appreciation for whomever looked at the coffee bean and thought, "Hey, I wonder what would happen if I roasted this?", and road trips to Michigan are pretty much my favorite.
Contact me anytime at simplefelicity7 (at) gmail (dot) com! I'd love to hear from you.
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