Between International Women’s Day and Daylight Savings Time we’re all in a pickle. What can God possibly do for us? Let us consider the matter, and what may be done.
A quick glance at the history of IWD on Wikipedia told me a lot more than I wanted to know. It was invented by the Socialist Party of America in 1909, along with the Russians (gosh, they really are always poking their nose our politics, aren’t they) and went from thence to Beyoncé. Personally, I think it’s too bad that it had to fall on a Sunday, and one in which all the lections would be exclusively—or at least it seems that way at first glance—about men. What with Abraham first, and Nicodemus afterward, and, of course, Jesus, I don’t know how any right-minded woman will be able to endure church this morning.
Indeed, the Abraham text is practically shocking. In the first place, God calls Abraham and doesn’t even tell him to consult his wife. In the second place, the call itself is a major hassle. He is told to pack up his household—all of his stuff, and all of his people, of which, being so rich, he has plenty of both—and drift over to “the place God will show him.” It’ll be great, says God, and then somehow Abraham has to tell Sarah about it. Of course, back then, they were both Abram and Sarai, and they were but young spring chickens. Abraham was only seventy-five. I’m sure Sarah was just as excited about it all as he was. I know Matt loves to come tell me stuff, like, ‘Hey sweetie, there’s a meeting I signed you up for this week.’ And I’m all like, (just like Sarah calling Abraham ‘Lord’), ‘Oh yes! It’s very easy for me to clear my schedule. Hey! I even have time to make snacks!’
The important thing to remember, though, is that Abraham and Sarah were rich—very rich—and they had servants. Sarah wasn’t managing that whole camp on her own. There are a lot of people attached to them—enough that when Abraham rushes off to rescue Lot, he has a small army, basically, at his disposal. But what are riches without children? That was always the question in that ancient, irrelevant, patriarchal past.
Anyway, God calls Abraham—how dare he—and strings the promise out endlessly, embroiling childless, disappointed, increasingly angry Sarah in the whole wretched mess. And then a long while later Nicodemus comes creeping up to find Jesus (this is the DST part), anxious to find out if he is really going to be ok forever. And Jesus, peering through the dark night at that patriarch of Israel says…well, it’s actually kind of awkward. You’d think he would say, “Man Up” or something. ‘Go into politics,’ maybe. Or, ‘Get a different job.’ Instead, he tells Nicodemus that there’s no hope for him, except he be “born again.”
As I said, what hope is there without children?
Which is why Christianity is so peculiar, and so much more complicated than International Women’s Day. I happened to read this moaning thing in the New York Times, about how all our lives are over because Ms. Warren didn’t make it to the general election. Never mind that it was progressive democrats who were the ones to block her way, and is that really where one would expect all the misogyny in the world to gather? The thing that really depressed me was the virtue signal in the middle, about Planned Parenthood. She writes this:
Two weeks ago, when she placed fourth in the Nevada caucuses — in spite of thoroughly winning a Las Vegas candidates debate and pulling in nearly $3 million in donations the next day — I was on the Gulf Coast of Florida. I had just given a keynote address at a Planned Parenthood fund-raiser. It was the first time I’d ever toed the line of journalistic ethics by speaking on behalf of a peripherally political organization because, well, these are desperate times for women’s rights.
The event organizers shared with me that their impressive new health facility, ensuring reproductive health care for regional women, had been kept secret from the broader, conservative community throughout a capital campaign and construction. The men who built the structure, for instance, were told it would be a dentist’s office.
Whoever this person is, she wants an absolute right over the lives of other people (babes and infants) that in any other age would have been considered totalitarian. If that is where all women in this moment’s bright day live (though I know it isn’t) it will then be quite shocking to see the words of Jesus printed there so baldly and offensively on the page. “Unless one is born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” How can such a thing be heard? Especially when there is no agreement that first you must be born at all.
Jesus links Nicodemus inexorably to Sarah of all people, who never, until the very end of her life, got to give life, got to give birth, until she finally did—the one time it really mattered, the one baby in whom all the nations of the world would finally be blessed.
Except she gave birth to a boy, so that’s too bad. But that boy eventually married a woman who had more children, and all the children, all the way down until Jesus himself, each was another fretful, angry link in the chain of salvation. If ever there was one man who could turn an image—such a primal, basic image—around and make it about eternity, it was always Jesus.
What’s that awful verse? The one about a woman being “saved” in childbirth? That the salvation of the whole world is bound up in this strange, painful experience of a woman letting another life come out of her. That that reflects the curious and helpless way that God works out faith in the believer. You are “born” again, just as painfully, just as messily, just as hazardously as any ordinary birth.
And so, in a single salvific promise, God unites men and women together in his gospel, forcing the one back upon the other over and over again, until finally they both find their hope and rest in him.
The Psalmist sums it up:
The Lord looks down from heaven and beholds all the children of men; from the habitation of his dwelling he considers all those who dwell on earth.
He fashions all the hearts of them and understands all their works.
There is no king who can be saved by a mighty host; neither is any mighty man delivered by great strength.
A horse is considered a vain hope to save a man; neither shall it deliver anyone by its great strength.
Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon those who fear him, and upon those who put their trust in his mercy…
To deliver their soul from death, and to feed them in time of famine.