We Remember: A Ceremony to Lament and Honor Women

One of my least favorite things about the Bible are stories where women are neglected, abused, raped, and chopped into twelve pieces.  Worse than the stories themselves is the way in which God is silent about these stories.  When Abraham sacrificed his son, God saved the day by providing a ram.  When Jephthah sacrificed his daughter…she died.

One of my favorite things about the Bible is that it is full of people screaming at God, desperate to know why things happen and where we can find meaning in the midst of misery.  Although I still don’t understand why these stories are in the Bible, or why God allows so much abuse to continue today, I know that one way I can find meaning in all of this is to remember their stories and tell them again to a world that so often doesn’t want to hear.

“Those who seek to glorify biblical womanhood have forgotten the dark stories.  They have forgotten the concubine of Bethlehem, the raped princess of David’s house, the daughter of Jephthah, and the countless unnamed women who lived and died between the lines of Scripture exploited, neglected, ravaged, and crushed at the hand of patriarchy are as much a part of our shared narrative as Deborah, Esther, Rebekah, and Ruth.  We may not have a ceremony through which to grieve them, but it is our responsibility as women of faith to guard the dark stories for our own daughters, and when they are old enough, to hold their faces and make them promise to remember.”

-Rachel Held Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood, pg 66


After reading Rachel Held Evans’ book, a friend and I decided that we wanted to recreate a ceremony she describes, a ceremony meant to lament the fates of women in the Bible and in present times so that their stories will not be forgotten.  It was an incredibly moving experience, and I encourage anyone interested to consider trying it yourself.

Based largely on the suggestions made by Evans, this is the layout of our ceremony:

Should we remember Hagar, Tamar, Jephthah’s daughter, and Lot’s?
Should we tell of their wretched lives to our daughters?
Should we speak on our lips the tales of torture, misery, abuse, and violence?
Would we do better to consign them to silence?
We will listen, however painful the hearing,
for still there are women the world over
being raped
being whipped
being sold into slavery
being shamed
being silenced
being beaten
being broken
treated as worthless
treated as refuse.
Until there is not one last woman remaining
who is a victim of violence.
We will listen and we will remember.
we will rehearse the stories and we will renounce them.
we will weep and we will work for the coming of the time
when not one baby will be abandoned because of her gender
not one girl will be used against her will for another’s pleasure
not one young woman will be denied the chance of an education
not one mother will be forced to abandon her child
not one woman will have to sell her body
not one crone will be cast off by her people to die alone.
Listen then, in sorrow.
Listen in anger, Listen to the texts of terror.
And let us commit ourselves to working for a world
in which such deeds may never happen again…

  • Read the story of Jephthah’s Daughter (Judges 11)
  • Light a candle: “We remember Jephthah’s daughter.”
  • Read the story of the Unnamed Concubine (Judges 19)
  • Light a candle:  “We remember the unnamed concubine.”
  • Read the story of Hagar (Genesis 21)
  • Light a candle:  “We remember Hagar.”
  • Read the story of Tamar (2 Samuel 13)
  • Light a candle:  “We remember Hagar.”
  • Light candles for any other women who you want to remember

We ended our ceremony with discussion.  I felt drained by the horror of the stories we’d read, but also furious.  The male privilege throughout was infuriating – men mourning the death of the son but not the rape of their daughter – men throwing their concubine to a crowd to be repeatedly raped and then using pieces of her body as a spiritual warning – men taking God’s will into their own hands and then discarding a woman when it is clear she is no longer necessary – it is MADDENING.

But I remember their stories.  And I let this despair and outrage fuel my work with HD, reaching out to women who have been sexually exploited and abused.  Their stories are also too often forgotten.  Their actions are explained away, their experiences become statistics, and laws never change.  But each of us can make a difference, beginning today, by giving some of your time to remember the dark stories of women who came before us.

“From this comes the Israelite tradition that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah” (Judges 11:39-40).

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David and Bathsheba

David’s life is exemplary throughout his childhood and early adulthood. He trusts God to defend His people when fighting the giant Goliath (1 Sa 17). He trusts God to give him the kingship in His timing rather than take matters into his own hands by killing Saul (1 Sa 19, 1 Sa 24). In a beautiful culmination of his intimate relationship with God, David promises to build a house for God, and in turn, God promises to build an eternal house for David and his descendants (2 Sa 7). It is surprising, then, that soon after this exchange, David becomes an adulterer and a murderer.  Continue reading

Elijah’s Depression (originally written 10.1.13)

I’m starting a new bi-weekly series where I will share some of my favorite papers written when I was in seminary studying counseling.  They will be about faith, science, and faith + science!  


The Bible is not a psychotherapy manual, but the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19 reveals much about depression, both in how humans experience it and in how God reacts to it. After Elijah witnesses the mighty power of God in burning up sacrifices (1 Ki 18:38-39), wiping out the Baal prophets (1 Ki 18:40), bringing rain after a drought (1 Ki 18:41-45), and empowering him to escape the wrath of Ahab (1 Ki 18:46), one would expect Elijah to feel strong and confident. Jezebel’s death threat (1 Ki 19:2) doesn’t sound all that threatening when God has just performed multiple miracles. Yet Elijah’s response to the threat is to flee to the desert outside Beersheba and lay down to die (1 Ki 19:3-4). This incongruence between experience and reality is normative for depressed persons. Although Elijah has every reason to trust God, he feels weary of his burden and wants his life to end.

Many Christians do not understand depression and therefore react badly to those suffering from it. Well-meaning Christians can give very bad advice that often leads to more guilt rather than deliverance from depression. How comforting, then, is God’s response! Rather than impressing upon Elijah his stupidity in not trusting the almighty God, He sends an angel to feed and care for Elijah (1 Ki 19:5-6). For forty days and nights, the angel gently leads Elijah through the desert to Mount Horeb (1 Ki 19:8-9). God takes care of Elijah’s needs for a month and a half, treating him with over-kindness and silent support. It is not until this loving foundation is laid that God speaks to Elijah and says, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Ki 19:9). This too is telling. God does not list all the ways in which He has been there for Elijah or guilt Elijah for his lack of trust. Instead, he invites Elijah into a conversation, meeting him where he is rather than demanding more from him than Elijah is capable of giving. Continue reading

Nondum – Not Yet

In Dallas, my church’s small group spent one summer letting each member lead a discussion based upon their favorite psalm.  It was a great experience, both because I learned more about one of my favorite books in the Bible and because I learned about my fellow group members.  The psalm chosen, the way it was presented, how they taught–all helped me get to know my friends a little more.

One member of our group was a middle-aged man who chose two psalms and one poem, then had us create a triple Venn diagram to analyze their similarities and differences.  He’s a teacher.

All three were melancholy but hopeful, which is exactly my poetry aesthetic.  We talked about waiting, and being still, and how to trust God when it seems like there are no answers.  We read Psalm 130, Psalm 131, and Nondum by Gerard Hopkins.  It’s a bit lengthy, but I encourage you to read the whole thing, paying attention to the longing behind every word.

0001-5God, though to Thee our psalm we raise
No answering voice comes from the skies;
To Thee the trembling sinner prays
But no forgiving voice replies;
Our prayer seems lost in desert ways,
Our hymn in vast silence dies.

We see the glories of the earth
But not the hand that wrought them all:
Night to a myriad worlds gives birth,
Yet like a lighted empty hall
Where stands no host at door or hearth
Vacant creation’s lamps appal.

We guess; we clothe Thee, unseen King,
With attributes we deem are meet;
Each in his own imagining
Sets up a shadow in Thy seat;
Yet know not how our gifts to bring,
Where seek Thee with unsandalled feet.

And still th’unbroken silence broods
While ages and while aeons run,
As erst upon chaotic floods
The Spirit hovered ere the sun
Had called the seasons’ changeful moods
And life’s first germs from death had won.

And still th’abysses infinite
Surround the peak from which we gaze.
Deep calls to deep, and blackest night
Giddies the soul with blinding daze
That dares to cast its searching sight
On being’s dread and vacant maze.

And Thou art silent, whilst Thy world
Contends about its many creeds
And hosts confront with flags unfurled
And zeal is flushed and pity bleeds
And truth is heard, with tears impearled,
A moaning voice among the reeds.

My hand upon my lips I lay;
The breast’s desponding sob I quell;
I move along life’s tomb-decked way
And listen to the passing bell
Summoning men from speechless day
To death’s more silent, darker spell.

Oh! till Thou givest that sense beyond,
To shew Thee that Thou art, and near,
Let patience with her chastening wand
And lead me child-like by the hand
If still in darkness not in fear.

Speak! whisper to my watching heart
One word-as when a mother speaks
Soft, when she sees her infant start,
Till dimpled joy steals o’er its cheeks.
Then, to behold Thee as Thou art,
I’ll wait till morn eternal breaks.

I grew up arrogant, assuming I could know the entire truth of God.  Now that I am growing up, I find comfort in the mystery and agony, the “abysses infinite surround the peak from which [I] gaze.”  I long more and more, not for answers, but for the One who will lead me “if still in darkness not in fear.”

I’m grateful to my Dallas small group for many things, and this poem is definitely one of them.

The Gifts of the Jews by Thomas Cahill

I’ve always thought of Western civilization beginning with ancient Greece or Rome.  But Thomas Cahill convinced me to take a historical step backward and consider the impact of the Jewish story as the true hinge upon which history turns.  Prior to the Jews, pagan religions viewed the world as cyclical, repetitive, and uncontrollable.  When Yahweh intercedes in the life of Avraham (then Yitzchak, then Yaakov), the unveiling of a monotheistic religion changes everything.  History becomes linear, and a relational God that interacts with humans creates the possibility of real change and human responsibility.

Anyone interested in history, culture, or religion will find this fascinating.  Cahill is a phenomenal writer, working his way through history with just enough time to appreciate what happens without dawdling.  His adherence to Hebraic terms (like the names of the patriarchs above) gives readers enough space to view the story with new eyes.

As a seminary student, I view the Bible almost exclusively through the eyes of application:  what can we learn from its stories?  The Gifts of the Jews broadened my appreciation, helping me to see that history itself was changed by this unique people group.  Continue reading

A Theology of Homosexuality*: Sitting on the Fence

[I wrote this article two years ago on a different blog.  In light of SCOTUS’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage throughout the United States, I thought it was worth sharing again.]

In today’s cultural climate, it’s nearly impossible to create a theology of sex without mentioning homosexuality (or bisexuality or transexuality).  The church has a long history of staying silent on topics it does not understand or topics which it finds unseemly, and that silence is detrimental to our witness.  However, I desperately don’t want to talk about this.  I am deeply non-confrontational, and this topic is one that will almost certainly make someone angry with me.

A Safe Conversation

With my insecurities in mind, I’ve decided to lay myself bare.  I’m going to share my heart and my mind.  I’ll explain my motivations and my doubts.  I’ll ask you to accept my ignorance and my indecisions.  I hope that by being so honest, you will understand me even if you do not agree with me.  My hope is that honest and compassionate conversations can occur in which people on all sides of the gay/Christian dialogue can speak and be heard.  This is my contribution.  Continue reading

Sex Trafficking (1 of 3): God’s Perspective

The following information comes from information provided by Redeemed Ministries at their weekend conference on Aftercare Training.

I am 100% convinced that God hates the sexual exploitation of women.  I am positive that he is grieved by the fact that 21-30 million people are trafficked, 80% of whom are women, and 50% of whom are children.  Why do I know God hates trafficking?  Because of how he has revealed himself in the Bible.  Continue reading