Remembering Deborah / Being the Baby

I.

This is Deborah:

Deborah

In a time when the children of Israel did was what right in their own eyes, Deborah stood as a prophetess of Yahweh and a civil judge. As a judge, she oversaw matters of administration, the settlement of disputes, and military leadership. Deborah went with Barak, a trusted military commander who was under her authority, into battle against the forces of Jabin and Sisera.

On that day Deborah and Barak son of Abinoam sang this song:

When the princes in Israel take the lead, when the people willingly offer themselves– praise the LORD!

Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers! I will sing to the LORD, I will sing; I will make music to the LORD, the God of Israel.

O LORD, when you went out from Seir, when you marched from the land of Edom, the earth shook, the heavens poured, the clouds poured down water. The mountains quaked before the LORD, the One of Sinai, before the LORD, the God of Israel.

In the days of Shamgar son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the roads were abandoned; travelers took to winding paths. Village life in Israel ceased, ceased until I, Deborah, arose, arose a mother in Israel.

When they chose new gods, war came to the city gates, and not a shield or spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel. My heart is with Israel’s princes, with the willing volunteers among the people. Praise the LORD!

You who ride on white donkeys, sitting on your saddle blankets, and you who walk along the road, consider the voice of the singers at the watering places. They recite the righteous acts of the LORD, the righteous acts of his warriors in Israel.

Then the people of the LORD went down to the city gates.

‘Wake up, wake up, Deborah! Wake up, wake up, break out in song! Arise, O Barak! Take captive your captives, O son of Abinoam.’

Christ followers and Bible-believers have struggled for centuries with where to put women.

We have struggled with how to reconcile women like Deborah with other biblical language about “submitting,” “being busy at home,” and Paul “not permitting women to speak in church” meetings. It’s a valid struggle. I don’t think it’s a struggle we will fully figure out without God’s direct intervention. Until then, every day we must face the imperfect efforts of women trying to follow God, men trying to follow God, and a world trying to put men and women in their Right Places.

But no matter how we interpret troublesome or difficult passages, Deborah existed. Deborah is a celebrated figure in the Hebrew Scriptures. Deborah gives me something important to hold on to. Because of Deborah, if God has given me something to say, I will not be afraid of saying it. While I respect and submit to my father and husband out of love, family, and in following the example of Christ, I will not be afraid to call them out for sin or foolishness. I do not have to second-guess myself simply because I am a woman. If I am in a God-honoring position of power, I don’t have to let anyone tell me that I’m only there because “God couldn’t find a man.”

Because that’s what I see in Deborah.

II.

My husband and I both have full-time jobs. He is also a full-time student, and I’m on the leadership board of a nonprofit theatre group. On occasion, we deal with stress and drama from both sides of the family. And sometimes we’re just in bad moods. Sometimes one of us is needy, upset, or frustrated.

Sometimes….well, we need to be the baby.

“…Are you the baby today?”

“I’m the baby.”

These are not at all uncommon phrases to be uttered in our living room. Because, you know, life can be draining. Family members feud and friends abandon you and work is really demanding sometimes. Sometimes you just need someone to cradle you on the couch.

This is one of my favourite aspects of our marriage. My marriage isn’t defined by unflinching roles of Leader/Follower, Stronger/Weaker, Aggressor/Peacemaker, Breadwinner/Homemaker or anything else. In our marriage, we can be weak when we need to be weak. We can be strong for each other when weakness does come. Life is hard, and we all relate to it differently. Some days will not be hard for me, but they will be hard for him. And it’s a source of the greatest, wordless reassurance when my husband becomes my shoulder to cry on when it’s a hard day for me.

That’s taking care. That’s {submitting}. That’s {loving as Christ loved} – which is characterized by not insisting on one’s own way (1 Cor. 13:4-5). And, oddly (or not so oddly…) those two things look so similar…don’t they?

Because it’s just two different phrases for selflessness. It’s two different terms for dying to myself and lifting the needs of the other person above me. It’s different phrasing for the core issue of “you are my priority, and I will help, support, and care for you in any way that I possibly can.”

We’re talking about the same thing. Mutual submission. Mutual love.

And boy, am I glad that we can each be the baby sometimes. We need each other.

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