It was a bad situation. There was plenty of blame to go around, but the result left one girl in a lonely place – married, but not loved. Simply put, she did not have the body to compete.1
But, tucked away in the middle of the story of these dysfunctional people and their messed up family, is a moment of gentle beauty.
When God saw that she was not loved, He blessed her.2
He… blessed… her.
I was a bit surprised when I watched the documentary 20 Feet from Stardom to hear Sting admit that luck is a huge factor that separates the backup singers from the stars.
“It is not the brightest who succeed… Nor is success simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. It is, rather, a gift. Outliers are those who have been given opportunities — and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.”3
The fact that Bill Gates had access to a time sharing terminal in 1968 when no other teenager did, is an important detail in his story of success.4 Hard work is too no doubt.
Let me step off of this upward ascent to a macro level of commentary on the state of equality in our world and bring this down to me, you and everyone else around me sitting here at Starbucks. Yes, my life is that cliché.
We cannot forget that the fruits of our labor were grown in a soil fertilized with luck or unearned blessing. So, do not think that you are a self-made man, because you are not. This is why you are responsible for equality. Whatever it looks like within the power of your title or the scope of your influence, creating equality is your responsibility. When the blessed bless, space is made for reconciliatory equality. When we think too highly of the role we personally played in the story of our success at any level, we become selfish and even undermining. Equality is all of our responsibility and it is realized when we use our opportunities to create opportunity.
Jacob could have blessed his wife. Rachel could have pulled her sister up. They did not. God filled the gap left by their inattentiveness.
But there is more to this story than creating equality. It is about who she became. She was a second place prize, but she became the mother of half of the tribes of a nation. Equality is not just about the experience of the one person. It is about the loss we will all unknowingly experience when they are not enabled to become what they are meant to be. We will never know what life altering influence someone would have had because the door was never opened to them. Creating equality is not charity, it is unleashing a potential – a potential for goodness and innovation that we so desperately need.
And so I return to her. Her prayers, that left unheard, leave us all the poorer. Her leadership that could have helped to better navigate that treacherous path. Her heart and her deep theology that could have brought healing. Her wisdom and poise that would have provided steadiness. She is more than a compliment. She is an equal image bearer of God.
Your theological conclusions may not allow it 5, but I believe there is a wasted potential in her that cannot be denied. It is like saying your Elder Board could not benefit from the skill set of Condoleezza Rice, or listening to a sermon from Mother Teresa would not be more beneficial than half of the ones I preach. Just admit that Nancy Murphy could teach a better adult Bible class than most of us.
But, the likes of these gifted women walk within the walls of your faith community carrying a suppressed potential of truth, wisdom and goodness like huge water jugs on their heads of which we may never drink. This is not a post meant to change your theological conclusions. I simply ask that you lay the potential of her next to your theological conclusions about her.
And then think about which we need more of. Her or your conclusions?
1 Genesis 29:17
2 Genesis 29:31
3, 4 Outliers Malcolm Gladwell
5 Personally, James V. Brownson articulates theological conclusions on this topic that I would concur with in Chapter 4 of his book Bible, Gender, Sexuality.