I Am Not A Godly Woman

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I am not a godly woman.

I wanted to be one for a long time. I was told for most of my life I should aspire to be one. Men apparently looked for them to date and marry. Preachers spoke longingly of them as the idealized, female archetype. In fact, the only type of woman the evangelical church approved of was her, the godly woman.

So where was this woman? Or rather who was she? And how come I could never find her?

Because for 45 years I was on the inside of those sacred fireside rooms, retreat centers, sanctuaries, fellowship halls and Sunday school class rooms, the godly woman always seemed to be just around the corner, elusive, a dream, just beyond my reach.

I kept hearing whispers of her name …

Modesty.
Chastity.
Submissiveness.
Helpmate.
Humility.
Mother.
Wife.

Small.

Was she the pastor’s wife? Sometimes, until the pastor’s wife had enough of the charade and stopped trying to please everyone around her.

Was she the mother of four kids who stayed at home full-time to care for her family? Often, but when she started leading bible studies and questioning deeper theological ideologies she was asked to step aside until she was willing to just trust her leaders and stick with putting on the ladies tea.

Was she the highly educated, spinster missionary back from overseas who gave 40 years of selfless service, investing deeply into the lives of people she profoundly cared for only to be told she would have to stand at the side of a pulpit and “share a story” on Sunday morning as long as the pastor was sitting close by? Surely she was a godly woman?

But the goal posts for the godly woman kept shifting. Depending on the decade in which you lived, whether you lived in the temptation-laden city or the sleepy suburbs, the conservative East coast or lefty West. Whether you attended church in a beige Baptist sanctuary or met in a peaked roof Alliance hall. It depended on the fashions at the time, the length of one’s skirt, the heel of one’s shoe.

Size apparently mattered a great deal and while you could never be too thin, too curvy clearly meant you worshipped french fries over the Father. Gender had become dualistically entrenched, being feminine was in high demand while feminism was a four letter word. (It’s actually an eight-letter word.)

Was she pretty? Of course. Sexy? Only in the bedroom and only for her husband.

Proverbs 31 became the canon within the canon for evangelical women everywhere. Ephesians 5 became the preferred passage to be proclaimed at marriage ceremonies. 1 Timothy 2 & 1 and Peter 3 became the 11th and 12th commandments, respectively.

And after 40 years, I got tired of chasing her and I let her go.

I began to embrace the complexity of the ancient texts when I studied them. And I looked at things like textual criticism and author-audience intent, genres and literary-forms of books and passages. And I found out that context was the beginning of wisdom when it came to understanding the biblical scriptures and their appropriate, applicable interpretations.

And more significantly, how changing, adaptive culture across history informs our ideas and practices … and that our ideas about God, about ethics and character, about women and men, have profound consequences on how we understand and practice this notion of godliness.

I am not a godly woman.

But I am a woman. A cis-gendered, grown-ass woman who happens to love the God of the ancients, studies the words, deeds and gestures of Jesus from Nazareth and enjoys the mysterious feminine Divine that indwells me most days.

And I pursue this life of fragile, falling-forward faith, breath by breath.

So, the gauge of my godliness has nothing to do with my gender, my sexuality, the colour of my skin or the size of my waist. It has everything to do with loving God, and loving each other. (Mark 12: 30 & 31); loving my enemies, serving the poor, re-framing my leadership and life purpose (Matthew 5-7); my desire and practices in studying scriptures and being generous with my assumptions of others. (Joshua 1; Hebrew 4; Matthew 7.)

In 2 Peter 1:4, when Peter talks about this divine nature that we partake of, this godly nature, there is no differentiation between men and women in receiving such. (Galatians 3:28 further supports the removal of gender, race and social status barriers that previously separated us from one another and from reconciliation with God.)

And finally, I bear the very image of God, from conception to the moment I take my last breath. Into eternity, my Creator and I are inextricably linked. The value and worth I immutably embody is endowed through the work of the divine spirit and her alone. (Genesis 1, 2; Ephesians 2).*

So, can we reject the label “godly woman/ godly man”? I think so. In fact, I suggest it is required if we are to be true to the freedom and paradigm-shifting words and actions of Jesus Christ as he taught throughout his earthly ministry. His deconstruction of commonly accepted categories of who was godly and who was not, the breaking down of inclusivity/ exclusivity rules and practices in ancient Israel and the compelling vision of a new kind of kingdom here on earth that he repeatedly spoke about and willingly gave his life for, was rooted in love—love for God, love for neighbour.

Women, Jews, children, tax collectors, foreigners, immigrants, lepers, beggars, eunuchs, thieves—all were equally invited into this new thing that Jesus was ushering in.

I am not a godly woman. I am so much more.

_______________________________

*This is a very interesting conversation you may want to check out about women, the Trinity and the image of God.

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Brenda-Lee Sasaki
I am an unapologetic extrovert who can’t help but invite all I encounter to jump into my abundant, venti life, usually around a table with sweets or savories and often accompanied by a full-bodied merlot or quad americano. I preach (sometimes), teach (most of the time), read, write and research (all of the time), coach and strategize (when invited), and make mischief (as often as possible.) I am a fierce ally and advocate for brothers and sisters on the fringes of mainstream western evangelicalism. I am wife to 1, mom to 3 and Auntie B to many.
Brenda-Lee Sasaki
Brenda-Lee Sasaki

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