“God, there has to be at least one person out there that loves you and doesn’t hate women.” This was my desperate prayer as I sat in a hotel pool in Costa Rica the summer between high school and college.
Have you ever asked a similar question? Or felt like you had to choose between honoring women & honoring God? I sure did. From the moment I gave my life to Christ, it felt like my identity as a woman and my desire to love Jesus were growing more and more at odds with one another.
As my excitement to follow God grew, so did the number of my experiences with sexual harassment & stalking. On Sunday mornings, I would worship and learn about God in my church that I loved. The rest of the week, I would endure sexual harassment from my classmates. Eventually, I started seeing similarly dangerous patterns in my church even, such as our sermon series shaming women into “honoring their husbands” enough to stay with them through abuse & simply endure it. After a lot of thought, I decided that the church might not be for me. I was better off with agnostic feminism. Anger hardened around my heart, but at least I didn’t feel alone anymore; at least I felt like I had some worth. Theologian, Preston Sprinkle, points out that “people will gravitate to where they find love. And if they don’t find true, authentic love in the church, they will go outside the church to find love.” That was exactly my story.
By the time I was on this mission trip, I was rarely attending my church and I had almost entirely given up on Jesus & Christianity. While I was on this trip, though, I was baffled at what I experienced. Every single day was filled with dozens of kids & their families’ lives being changed by the gospel in a way that made the love & power of Jesus undeniable. But those days were also filled with comments from my teammates like, “No wonder there’s so many rapes in this town, look at what that girl is wearing!” and I would feel like someone was jabbing a knife deep into my stomach.
I couldn’t reconcile these two experiences in my head. I kept asking over & over, “God you clearly love people…but does your love extend to women?” Now I see that what I was really asking was, “Does your love extend to me?” All I really wanted was to be seen & to be loved by the God that I knew had to be out there somewhere. There was this little flame of hope inside me that I could find that love, but I mostly just felt exhausted, deflated, and angry.
So what changed? How did I get from there to running a Christian ministry? I found true, authentic love in the church. I experienced Jesus’ love for me firsthand through the leaders and pastors at my campus ministry and my new church here in Denver. I saw these amazing men & women work alongside one another to show the heart of God for all people. Not only that but they cared for me, loved me, and spoke biblical Truth to me about what it means to be a daughter of God.
The Woman at the Well
The most impactful sermon that I heard about God’s care for women came from John 4:1-30, commonly known as the story of “the woman at the well.” If you are a Christian or grew up in the Church, you might know this story. Essentially, Jesus approaches this woman at a well in the middle of the day and asks her for a drink of water. She is surprised & confused that he’s talking to her, but eventually they start chatting and Jesus offers the woman “living water” (as a metaphor for the eternal life that Jesus could give her). Then things get a little awkward. Jesus asks the woman to go get her husband & when she replies that she doesn’t have a husband, Jesus says “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true” (John 4:17-18).
Many people interpret this section of the passage as Jesus being stern & calling this woman out for her half-truth. While there may be some accuracy to this interpretation (God has never really been shy about correcting the people he loves), I was shocked and comforted to learn that there is another common perspective among theologians.
You see, during this time period, women under the Law of Moses did not have the ability to divorce their husbands, it was only men who could divorce their wives (Deuteronomy 24:1). So Jesus’ tone and main point in saying this was very likely not one of stern reproach, but that of gentle compassion. In other words, this sentence from Jesus might have looked like, “I see you, sister. I see the horrible ways that you have been mistreated and thrown to the curb over and over.” And that is exactly what he says to you, sweet friend. “I see you. I see what you have been through & it grieves me deeply. I am here. I am listening.”
What’s more is this was not just any woman, but a Samaritan woman. Her Samaritan identity was just as important as her female identity because of the incredible tension between Jews and Samaritans at this time. The Jewish people openly hated, condemned, and avoided the Samaritans. In fact, it was custom for Jewish people, when traveling from Judea to Galilee (as Jesus was in this story) to avoid Samaria by crossing the Jordan River and going all the way around. Not unlike many white people who go out of their way to avoid “bad” neighborhoods today. I say this because I want my BIPOC sisters to know that you are especially seen by God. Jesus specifically changed course, ignored cultural norms, and went straight through Samaria specifically to meet this woman. And He goes out of His way to meet you too. I’m sorry for the way the Church has dishonored you by overlooking, shaming, and over-sexualizing you. You are beloved.
There is so much more to say about God’s love & plans for women, enough to fill many more blog posts to come. But for now, I hope that the story of this woman at the well gives you the same comfort and awareness of God’s love that it did for me when my heart was aching with fear and confusion. We don’t have to choose between honoring women and honoring God. Because the God of the universe delights in honoring women as His beloved creation.
Are you hurting too? Are you wondering if God’s love could be for you? Do you know that God not only created you for a purpose, but that He came as the man Jesus and died to take away all of your sins and all of the bad things that have ever happened to you? Are you curious about what it would be like to have a relationship with Him? Send us a message below, we would love to talk with you! Or click this link to explore on your own.