Permission to Contend

Are we allowed to get better? Are we allowed to try harder?? To improve our situations?

 

Is it a sin to contend? I mean, Jacob wrestled with God for an entire night and ended up with a blessing. So is it really Ok to struggle against difficulties?

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With that in mind, I’d like us to consider the Creation story as it is found in the Old Testament. Written by Moses at God’s Holy Spirit inspiration, I trust it, and I’m not a very trusting person.

 

The gist is that in the beginning, God made the universe, the earth, the animals and people. In six days He made it all and on the seventh, He rested. The Biblical story of the creation of mankind is found in Genesis 1 and 2.

 

Genesis 1:27 states, “So God created man in His own image,

In the image of God He created them;

Male and female He created them.”

 

In Genesis 2, we receive more details behind:

1.) the order in which they were created (Adam first, then Eve based on 2:15),

2.) the reasons they were created (To procreate, 1:28, to work the ground, 2:5, subdue the earth 1:28),

3.) how He created them (Adam was made from dust, 2:7, Eve from Adam’s rib, 2:22).

 

*It is important to point out that there is absolutely no indication of authority given to Adam over Eve before the fall. The words, “obey” and “submit” occur no where in these passages. Some will make a claim that because Adam had named the animals that he was in a higher rank than Eve. I disagree with this because it would be as though I told one of my sons to take out the trash. The fact that he obliges does not give him any charge over his brothers. It was a Blessed Alliance, entirely equal, a co-leadership in rank and work that was demonstrated and nothing else.

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Some also could make the claim that because God used Adam’s rib that she was somehow secondary in rank. I would agree with this thought process if it were Adam’s hands that formed her body from the dust and breathed his breath into her nostrils. He really had nothing to do with her creation other than the fact that he desperately needed her in order to fulfill the commission that God had given him. After all, he was unable to reproduce alone. The apostle Paul weighs in on this in 1 Corinthians 11:10-12,

“Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of a woman. And all things are from God.”

 

The point is- we need everybody! I also believe that we run a danger if we take these passages too far as a claim on all people forever. Is it a person’s highest calling to be married and bear children? If it was, then how on earth could the Apostle Paul get away with saying that it is better for people to remain unmarried as he was (1 Corinthians 7)?

Having said that, I do believe that there is a spiritual element to the command to going and “fill the earth.” God’s original charge to Adam and Eve is later transferred to the Great Commission that Jesus commanded the disciples to execute after He had ascended into heaven (Matthew 28  “Go… and make disciples…” aka “image bearers.”). All believers should respond to a calling to continue bearing His image and showing the world what He looks like, and that they really do need Him. It’s a different kind of procreation, but procreation nonetheless.

 

But I digress…

 

It’s time to talk about curses. After Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree, Adam blamed Eve when he was called out directly. In fact, he said,

“The woman that YOU gave me did this!” (emphasis mine. Genesis 3:12)

 

The first rift between them. The first fight. The first true division. (I’m not sure any of us has really recovered.) He felt that she was more responsible and publicly humiliated her in order to save face. I wonder if she couldn’t believe he actually said it. I wonder how her heart broke.

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As the curses were neatly laid out, his was two fold. In Genesis 3, God calls upon the ground to to be cursed and not produce plentifully as they were used to in the garden. Adam was going to sweat all over his own forehead in order to eat the simplest of meals (bread, vs 19) and he would die eventually with his body decaying and becoming dust once again. How depressing!

Eve’s curse is equally as rough.

I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;

In pain you shall bring forth children.

Your desire shall be for your husband,

and he shall rule over you.” (3:16 emphasis mine)

 

In the original Hebrew, there were no exclamation points in the language  or emphatic wordings. Instead, for emphasis, repetition was used. If you look closely, anytime God wanted to make sure that they really got it, it was repeated. Here is a simple example but there are countless ones in Scripture:

  • “I am Yahweh your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God; I am Yahweh your God” (Numbers 15:41)

 

Similarly, when God says to Eve, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.” 

 

Lemmie tell you, He wasn’t kiddin’!

 

But we need to hone in on the second part which is mentioned only once. Not that I am discounting it, but understanding it is quite important.

“Your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you.”

 

There are a few differing opinions as to what exactly “your desire shall be for your husband” actually means:

-Some say that it means that she will be extremely dependent on him and he will be an idol in her life. She will look to him always for her purpose and leadership. She will be unable to function without him. (If that was the case, then the second part makes sense because it demonstrates that she will be subject to him, even oppressed by him.)

 

Others say that it means that she will strongly desire to usurp his authority but will be unsuccessful. I’m not sure that I see this here. The wording is unclear and so I am quite hesitant to add words that simply aren’t there.

 

Either way, this part of the curse describes a contentious relationship. These two aren’t necessarily competitive, but I’d say that there are troubles in paradise. But hone in on something with me. When it comes to the curses that are imposed on the serpent, Adam, and Eve (when it comes to childbirth) are directly given by God Himself. He takes full credit.

 

“I will surely…”

“I will put enmity…”

but when it comes to a husband’s “rulership,” it would appear to NOT be a mandate handed down to her, but rather a proclamation of what will be. What she can expect in both culture and tradition. It will be normal for him to…

 

“rule over you.”

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So this brings me to my main point… are we allowed to contend against curses? If your immediate answer is yes, please keep reading.

 

(This is about to get good!)

 

Do we contend against the thorns and thistles? Think for a minute… how many of us poured sweat in order to till, plant, weed, harvest, pound, bake and slice our own bread today?

Question… how much bread have you eaten in the last 24 hours?

 

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Would you say then that it is Ok for us to support initiatives that keep crops growing in mass quantities that we might be able to hop in our gas powered cars, head into well stocked grocery stores, pick up a loaf at a fantastic price per slice ratio, and head home to make a beautiful sandwich without so much as a drop of sweat beading upon our brows?

 

I SHOULD HOPE SO!! (Sandwiches make me so happy!)

 

I would agree that work is still hard, but here in first world countries, it’s Ok to progress. We really could not possibly understand what it was like for Adam and Eve to break virgin ground in hopes that they and their children would not starve to death! What I’m saying is that faithful folks have successfully contended and we glean the fruits of their farming labors and technological breakthroughs. If we even dared to compare our struggles with those of Adam’s days I would emphasize that we have no idea what hunger truly feels like. So let’s give some respect to those who know true suffering.

 

And child birth… oh my heavens! I have successfully brought forth four healthy sons into this world. They were created, by God, knit together in my womb with my husband’s participation and genetic contribution. Our sons needed both of us equally in order to be here.

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This is me, Chad, Tony (the photobombing master) and there in all of my giantness is Toby Jay as we are two minutes away from driving to the hospital for a nice, neat delivery.

 

Don’t I look like I am in agony?

 

I have a confession to make…

 

I wasn’t.

 

You see, I am one of these women who likely would have died in childbirth without medical intervention. Apparently, my body just doesn’t really do this on its own. All of my children were born by ceserean section (some even emergency!). Thank God I was born in the day and age that I was born in!!

 

In the 1800’s, one out of four women died from complications from childbirth. Nearly EVERY woman had a full term baby die at some point in their “birthing career.” Infection was rampant. Antibiotics were not available. Babies were born at home and everybody hoped and prayed for the best but expected the worst. It was devastatingly common.

 

In the year 2016 we’ve come a long way, my dear friends, and we did it because of those who were willing to contend. I could never express thanks enough for those who stuck their necks out, worked tirelessly, and were absolutely determined to move the generations forward with medical interventions. Listening to his heartbeat on the monitor, lying in an adjustable bed made for mayhem, donning my little mushroom hat with my gown on and sanitized people wearing blue gloves, it never even crossed my mind that I might not hold a living baby at the end of the process.

 

Doctors, nurses, midwives, researchers, scientists, I thank you. Thank you for contending. Thank you for fighting the curse and giving me a life in which I know my children and they are here to live it.

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(This is Toby Jay and I just moments after giving birth with the amazing help of a room full of individuals who were professionally trained to keep us safe and alive. 4th son born into the world without a hitch or a worry! I am forever grateful!)

 

It’s time to talk about whether or not we are allowed to contend with this:

 

he shall rule over you.

 

(Let’s just take a minute and breathe. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.)

 

Is it a sin to wrestle with this… to say…

“Wait a minute. I don’t really want to be ‘ruled over.'”

 

Is that really God’s plan for women?

 

To be honest, I don’t think that my Heavenly Father made me to be “ruled over.” And I don’t think that He made me to be a consultant, phasing in and out of project when needed. I don’t think that He made me to stand on the sidelines and let the big boys do the work. I don’t think that He gave me ideas so that I could hoard them. I don’t think that He gave me experiences so that I could keep them all to myself.

 

I think that He made me to live. To be active. To participate.

 

I’m not a consultant. I’m a co-laborer.

 

I’m not here to stand far off and tell him where I think that the building should go… I’m here to get my hands dirty, stand next to him, and start laying brick together. I mean, what good am I if I’m a million miles away from the process?

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I am longing to say, “I’m here with you. Please tell me that you see me as helpful and not threatening.”

And so I believe that God has given us permission to contend. Not that this means we should become combative and confrontational. I would much rather that each one of us finds the soft place where we realize that we truly are equals, rather than running around blindly demanding it from men!

May we never be women who contend in order to control!

Might we seek to truly contend in order to help, to wage war against the lies of the enemy and truly bear the image of God to a lost and dying world! Might we stop standing idly by and thinking that our interactions with him are enough to make real changes. Might we discover all that we have to offer without discounting all that he has to offer! Might we find ourselves holding hands again, truly, and as women and men representing God the way it is found most powerfully and effectively!

 

I am speaking to you, dear one. The one who assumes that your brokenness defines you. He broke your heart. He broke your confidence. He broke your entire perspective of yourself. He made you feel like you didn’t matter, that you were better off mute. In your head, you know it isn’t true, but your heart still struggles. I’m here to proclaim the truth that you are valuable

whether educated or not…

whether thin or not…

whether with a devoted and faithful man or not…

whether with a quivver of children or not…

whether with a career worth bragging about or not…

whether motivated or not…

or possessing wordly beauty or not…

or wealthy or not…

 

You were carefully created, are passionately loved, and ferociously defended

 

whether you realize it or not.

 

I’m here… to contend… for you…

 

It’s time to contend for yourself.

 

Your voice matters. Your experiences matter. You matter. (The God of heaven and earth died for you, after all!)

Go, and bear His image. Show the world what His love really looks like… Learn. Teach. Speak. Preach. Witness. Help. Serve. Do anything you want to do for God!

Stop looking to your husband/pastors/leaders to do it through. They can’t offer what God has uniquely equipped and called you to do! Step up and out. Be brave!

 

 

 

(even if you happen to be a girl.)

 

-n

 

 

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