THE TAKE AWAY
The Sacrifices of Fierce Love
By Kersley Fitzgerald
Rachel Pieh Jones has an amazing, humbling, convicting post out on Christianity Today called The Good Female Samaritan. She tells of a morning she went jogging in Djibouti and came across a man lying in the road. She wanted to help, but Djibouti is 94% Muslim—she culturally wasn't allowed to touch him, even to nudge him to see if he was alive. And if he was alive and injured, she couldn't touch him to care for him. She did try to speak to him, but he was unresponsive. She kept running.
Later that day, she told her husband about the encounter, and about how helpless the culture made her feel. He didn't give her the reassurance she was expecting. He said, Why didn't you tell me earlier? Why didn't you use your freedom and authority in Christ to commission me to go help him?
Rachel was chagrinned to realize that as a part of the body of Christ, her limitations in the culture weren't nearly as impeding as she'd thought. She could have acted—it just would have taken a creative mix of boldness and humility.
A few weeks ago, I was browsing the Amazon best seller list and came across Amanda Lindhout's A House in the Sky. Amanda and her friend Nigel were kidnapped by Muslim extremists in Somalia, and held captive for fifteen months while their families negotiated with the terrorists who thought every westerner could come up with millions of dollars in ransom at the drop of a hat.
Amanda's story is really, really hard, but there's one piece that grabs my throat whenever I think of it. One day, Amanda and Nigel manage to escape the house where they're being held. They crawl out a bathroom window and run for the nearest Mosque. Since they had played at converting to Islam and had spent several months studying the Qur'an, they hope the men there will protect them.
It appears as if they will. The men nod gravely and speak quickly. A Somali woman sneaks in and cradles Amanda, giving her the first sympathetic touch she's had in months. Everything is looking like it might work out.
Until the kidnappers appear, armed to the teeth. There's yelling. Nigel is dragged out. Amanda runs, barefoot, her kidnapper on her heels. At one point, a thorn jams under her toenail, but she keeps running. She dives back into the Mosque, into safety.
Except guns speak louder than religion. A kidnapper grabs her pant leg and starts pulling her out. He doesn't get very far. While the men from the Mosque look away, the woman takes hold of Amanda's wrist and holds on with everything she has. The kidnapper jerks Amanda out of her grasp. She leaps, throws herself across Amanda's body, forcing the kidnapper to drag them both.
More hands reach in. As Amanda is dragged out of the mosque, she looks back to see her would-be rescuer kneeling on the floor, weeping, with a rifle to her head.
After her release, in part in honor of that woman in the mosque, Amanda started an organization that supports women and women's causes in Somalia.
I don't really have some concise take-away for these stories. Most of us don't live in an Islamic nation that limits our interaction with the world in such an extreme way. For many Christian women in the west, when you get past the eye-rolling discussions about stay at home moms and women presidents, the most relevant issue is "can women be senior pastors."
I guess my thought is that in the "push-me/pull-you" drama of societal expectations, the fear of making God (or others) mad, and the grouchy resentment that we're being held back, we lose the freedom in Christ and the fierceness and creativity to bring the care for others that the world needs. I mean, my sister just recently posted on Facebook about the existential angst she went through because she didn't know how to tell her hairdresser she wanted a different cut. And we like to think we've come so far, that we would always speak our mind, but I bet every woman out there has a similar story. In fact, two months ago I had the same story with a hair-dresser.
There are plenty of examples of fierce but seemingly powerless women in the Bible; the one that comes to my mind is the women who went to take care of Jesus' body in the tomb (Mark 16:1-8). It had been a couple of days since His death and burial. Cultural constructs (mostly the Sabbath) had prevented them from arriving earlier. They knew the tomb was not only closed, it was sealed by the government and guarded by soldiers. It was impossible for them, with their abilities and status, to do what they needed to do.
But they showed up anyway. And because they did, they were able to see how God was already working in the situation.
I found the photo above on Wimp.com, but I can't find out much about it—including who took it. The pipe is one of several family homes in the area. There seems to be a younger child draped over the mother's left shoulder. It doesn't stop the mother from helping the sleepy girl get ready for school.
The picture strikes me because I've heard a lot of stories of families in similar situations. And I've heard way too many stories where the impoverished families forced their children to dig in a dump or work in the sex trade to bring home money for food. But far too few where the parents did everything they could to send their children—especially their daughters—to school. Who knows what fierce heroics the mother has had to exhibit to make sure her daughter will not stay in that drain pipe. Or, if not heroics, quiet rebellion and creativity to escape cultural expectations and show agape love to the least of these.
For these women, their fight requires a sacrifice. Rachel learned that she has to sacrifice her honor as an independent western woman. Amanda's erstwhile-rescuer was willing to sacrifice her life for someone she had never met. The mother in India is sacrificing comfort—maybe even a real apartment—for her daughter's future. We all feel limited by our culture in some way. The question is, how we can use those limitations to fiercely love others? What sacrifice will we need to make to do so?
Photo credit: I could find no information on the photo. If you are or know the photographer, please let us know.
Tags: Christian-Life | Hardships | Womens-Issues
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