Friday, February 27, 2015

The Puppy on the Leash

God Leads By Your Heart's Desire

But sometimes the heart is like a puppy on a leash.  The puppy is really happy to be out with her person and really wants to go on the walk but she sits down or she tries to go the other way or she whines.  Somehow she doesn't trust that the hand holding the leash will take care of her or knows which way to go.  My heart was the puppy on the leash.  Religion, especially feminist theology, has always been my passion, my heart's desire.

Not Following God's Lead

When it was time to go to college I knew I had to go to Chapman and study religion. I got my BA in religion.  I was called to go to graduate school or seminary, but like the puppy who tries to go the other way I did not trust that the hand on the leash knew which way to go.  Instead I moved back to the desert to substitute teach.  The stated goal was to pay off my student loans before going to graduate school.  A couple at the church I attended went to seminary.  I could hardly stand to be in the same room with them because I wanted to go to seminary so badly.  A pastor at a church in Big Bear left her congregation to "follow her call" to a church in the mid-west.  I couldn't read the article in the newspaper.  I knew I wasn't following my call.  

Eventually I got my multiple subject teaching credential and began a career in elementary education.  When it came time to get an MA, so I could move over on the pay scale, I said to my husband, "Well, I better find an MA in religion program.  It is the only thing I have ever wanted to study." I got that MA from Liberty University.

I continued to feel called to the study of religion.  I thought it was a Ph. D. I was called to until one day I saw an advertisement in a publication titled, Christian Century. The add seemed to have my name on it.  It said, "Paula. do you long to study international feminist theology with women from around the world?"  Oh, yes please! So I got my Dr. of Ministry in International Feminist Theology and went back to kindergarten.

I have a favorite quote from the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas.  It says, "If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you.  If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you."

Sometimes God Has To Tug On The Leash

My last two years of teaching were very difficult.  I won't go into details about my next to last year except to say I had a very difficult group of children.  My last year I had the most wonderful group of children and the most difficult group of parents I had ever experienced.  One afternoon, after a particularly difficult encounter with a parent I walked from my classroom to the office and said, "God, why am I having such a hard time with these parents?  With children like these I could do this forever." That still, small voice that I am getting better at listening to said, "Paula, you are not supposed to be here."  "Oooooooh!"

So I retired.  I think of it as I finally graduated from kindergarten.  I wrote the book that had been banging on the inside of my chest to get out.  I brought forth what was within me and it saved me.  My book recently received a gold medal from Illumination Book Awards.  I am realizing my heart's desire.  

The puppy on the leash is no longer sitting down or whining or trying to go the other direction.  The puppy on the leash is trotting happily along, trusting that the hand on the leash knows the way to go and will take care of her. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Sacrifice of the Virgin Daughter of Jephthah

Where to find the story of Jephthah's Nameless Daughter

Jephthah's daughter is found in Judges 11:1-11 and 29-40.  Her father makes a vow to God that if he is successful in battle the first person to greet him, on his return, will be sacrificed   

Jephthah's Daughter Tells Her Story

I could see him coming from a long way off. I put on my dancing skirt and picked up my tambourine. I am his only daughter, his only child and I wanted to be the first to welcome him home in victory.  

"Why have you done this to me?" he yelled.  He started tearing his clothes and throwing dirt on his head. "You have caused me great trouble!  You have brought me very low."   

All I could do was stand there and listen to him rave about what I had done to him. He blamed me for his vow, for the violence he was about to do to me.  Who did he think would come out to greet him?  My mother and I were the two most obvious choices. He had vowed to sacrifice the first person to greet him and it was me.  He must have know it would be me or my mother.  

I hated him in that moment!  I knew that he would not relent.  I was doomed and I had to get away from him.  I left for two months. I told him I was going to bewail my virginity. That was something he could understand. My life was of no consequence to him.  He had decided how I would die but I decided when.  

The women of Israel will remember me. They will lament the sacrifice of a virgin daughter to a God who does not demand human sacrifice. 

Observations on the story of Jephthah's Daughter

Abraham vows to sacrifice Isaac but God intervenes at the last moment and Isaac is saved.  No such luck for the nameless daughter of Jephthah.  Ironically, Jephthah has just defeated the Ammonites who worship the god Molech.  The Ammonites practiced the sacrifice of their children to Molech.

Leviticus 18: 21 warns the Israelites not to sacrifice their children because the act profanes the name of God.  Leviticus 20: 2-5 prescribes the punishment of stoning to death for anyone who does sacrifice a child.  Where is the justice for Jephthah's daughter?  Not only is her father not stoned he is made the head of the elders and commander of the army.

One can only wonder at the motivation of a father and husband who vows to sacrifice the first person to greet him on his return home. He seems to have his, "Look what you have done to me" blaming the victim speech, all made up.  The story of Jephthah's daughter is tragic and the male biblical writer seems to believe that the fact that she is a virgin is even more tragic.  He sends her off to bewail her virginity, not her life.  But the women know and Judges 11:39b-40 says, "So there arose an Israelite custom that for four days every year the daughters of Israel would go out to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite." NRSV