Whenever I speak at women’s conferences about God’s purposes for his daughters, women who find this message to be as life-changing as I do inevitably wonder how differently their stories would read if they had heard this message when they were young girls.
I wonder too.
How would my story read differently if I had understood as a young girl that being God’s image bearer involves a mission that comes with responsibility and a call to action? What if I had known that ruling and subduing God’s creation are women’s jobs too? What more would I have done if I had known that God created me to be an ezer-warrior for his kingdom? And, more to the point, how can we get this message to our girls?
Well, we are about to find out. And the implications of what follows are significant!
Girls in the Pow Wow Room
Several months ago, my friend Jenny told me about a group of sixth and seventh grade girls at a private Christian school who, with their passionate art teacher, were studying and discussing their way through my book, Lost Women of the Bible: The Women We Thought We Knew.
To my knowledge, this is the youngest group to tackle this read, and I was eager to meet them. That happened last week. When I arrived, the girls led me to a small room—the “Pow Wow Room”—located inside their school Art Department where they regularly huddle together to dig into this study.
Trust me, the world is going to hear from these girls. They are smart and they are using their minds to process a lot of information. They are getting the message that God has a big vision for his daughters, and they have plenty to say.
Putting it mildly, lights are going on.
Reflecting on what she had learned, one girl told me, “I’m just as special as any boy.” She wasn’t being defiant or combative. She was simply stating a fact that, sadly, was brand new to her.
When there are precious few resources for young Christian girls that challenge them to go deeper in their relationship with God, to cultivate and employ the gifts he has given them, and to embrace his calling on their lives, the work this group of girls has done represents something of a break-through.
It breaks from the practice in the church of teaching girls that God’s purpose for them lies somewhere in the future and is secondary to what their brothers can and will do. It proves that they are looking for substance and are willing to work for it. It gives them a whole new vision of themselves that isn’t based on how they look or how the culture defines them. Instead it challenges them with God’s vision for his daughters that begins at birth, lasts until they breathe their last, and calls them to be more.
It’s the same vision we all wish we’d known when we were their age.
What Christian Girls Hear
For those unfamiliar with Lost Women of the Bible, the book features some of the best-known women in the Bible—Sarah, Esther, and Mary of Nazareth, for example. Hardly women we’d describe as lost. Yet we’ve lost sight of them and their significant contributions because their stories have been overlooked, marginalized, diminished, toned down, and explained away until we’ve not only lost them, we’ve lost the potency of their examples.
One girl remarked about the chapter on Mrs. Noah, “It is sad that we don’t even know her name.”
“Their stories have been buried under layers of low expectations and the belief that God is doing his most important work through men. It is a profound loss—not just to women, but also to Christian men.”
—Lost Women of the Bible
The girls told me they have experienced that loss. Stories they mainly hear in church and Sunday School are about men—Moses, David, Daniel, and the twelve disciples, to name a few. But women? Not so much. Maybe on Mother’s Day or around Christmas. Overall, girls aren’t hearing the bracing stories of women in the Bible who will speak meaning, purpose, and courage into their lives.
Pastors need to know, young girls are listening.
Instead, what girls hear about women is often negative. They’ve gotten the message that Eve is responsible for the fall of humanity which, besides being inaccurate, implies all women and girls are a hazard. Yet Eve—the unfallen Eve—remains God’s official blueprint for his daughters, no matter how young or old they may be. Once that message is unpacked, it is empowering a lot of women today, and now these sixth and seventh grade girls too.
Before reading Lost Women of the Bible, the girls didn’t realize the Bible contains so many gripping stories about women. They are well aware that the patriarchal context intensifies the potency of these narratives. What girls typically hear about women from the church doesn’t call them to strength or to courageous faith. It doesn’t motivate them to aspire.
These girls are aspiring now.
One of the sixth graders has abandoned her dream of becoming a veterinarian and now aspires to go to seminary to become a Bible teacher. Who knows what the rest of them will do!
Who are those Lost Women?
The women I cover in Lost Women of the Bible are some of the most familiar. Yet, the significance of their contributions and the battles they engage deserve deeper study.
Some of the lost women are shapers of Judeo-Christian theology. Sarah’s pregnancy at ninety fuels our faith in God’s power to keep his word. The prophetess Hagar (slave girl of Abraham and Sarah) teaches us the intimate side of God. She names him El Ro’i, “the God who sees me.” The barrenness that made Hannah a failure as a wife and as a woman became the crucible in which she learned and from which she ultimately taught her son (the future mentor of Israel’s kings) deep truth about God’s sovereignty. Hannah is appropriately regarded as the theologian of the monarchy.
Some of the lost women risked their lives to advance the purposes of God. Judah threatened Tamar, his twice-widowed daughter-in-law, with an honor killing. The very young, pregnant-out-of-wedlock Mary of Nazareth could easily have faced stoning. Likewise, Esther took her life into her hands when she stood up to the two most powerful men in the world and identified herself as a member of a people threatened by genocide.
Some of the lost women were very young and likely in their early teens when they enter the story. In patriarchal cultures, girls are marriageable when they reach puberty. So Hagar, Tamar, Esther, and Mary of Nazareth fit into that age group.
I learned that when the girls reached the chapter on Tamar, they encountered a little short-lived parental hesitation. After all, Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute and duped Judah into impregnating her.
Is this something young girls should be reading?
Turns out the Tamar chapter had a profound and positive impact on them. They found her courage inspiring and were puzzled that they’d never heard her story before. One girl expressed bewilderment that any pastor would avoid her story. She wondered out loud, “Shouldn’t we be reading the whole Bible?”
My interaction with these elementary school girls was a strong reminder that we should never underestimate what young girls can understand. Nor should we limit what they can and will do when they discover the Bible’s powerful message for girls. They can handle the fact that the bar has been raised for them.
The word they used most often during my time with them was “empowered.” They’ve been empowered and validated by the courageous stories of women in the Bible. Several of them said that what they learned brought them closer to God.
You should have heard them pray!
Through the stories of his daughters recorded in the Bible, God has empowered these girls to live boldly and courageously for his purposes. They don’t intend to hold back.
The implications of their study addresses, at least in one way, the question “How can we get this message to our girls?” The girls I met don’t need, nor do they want, a dumbed-down message. Surely other girls can read and learn from Lost Women of the Bible too—on their own, or with their teachers, mentors, moms, and dads.
Oh, and about that Pow Wow room in the Art Department? They’ve renamed it “The Ezer Room!” I suspect we haven’t heard the last from the girls who are spending time in that space.
Published originally at at Missio Alliance