On Really Valuing Someone’s Story
Note: this is the sixth post in a series exploring how Jesus related with women in his day. Find the introductory post here, and the previous posts here, here, here and here.
Danish author Isak Dinesen (Babette’s Feast, Out of Africa) once said this:
“To be a person is to have a story to tell.”
She’s right of course. Everyone does have a story. But here’s the thing: while it’s true that everybody’s got a story, it’s also true that not everyone’s story is allowed to be told.
That’s how it was in Jesus’ day. Why? Because a woman was considered to be property. Like a dining room table or your favorite pair of shoes. No personhood, no story.
This makes Jesus’ determined and persistent use of women’s stories in his teaching extraordinarily counter-cultural. Consider the widow and her single gold coin from Luke 21:1-4:
“As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
Or how about the woman who anoints Jesus’ head for burial in Mark 14:1-11. Remember what Jesus says about the value of her story at the end of the passage?
“Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
What an honor.
I think one of the ways that a guy like me can surrender his privilege is to remember, understand, learn from and celebrate women’s stories.
My maternal grandmother died in January 2008. But if she was alive today, our family would be preparing to celebrate her centennial birthday on February 19th. I wrote my version of her story after she passed and I offer it below.
Be blessed by it. As I am. As Jesus is.
Don’t get me wrong, my Grandma had some quick wit. A couple years ago I was teaching on 2 Timothy and there’s this part where Paul reminds Timothy of his faith heritage, which came in part through his grandmother Lois. As I was telling the students about how I resonate with that text, I happened to mention that my almost 95 year old Grandma had once briefly dated Moses. Later, when I told her that story, she paused for a moment and said, “Mercy. Well, you know, Rob, that Moses, he was a wild man.”
So she had some quick wit, but the three things I will remember most about my Grandma were her gentleness, her faith and her toughness.
Gentleness is a lost art. Who’s gentle anymore anyway?!? The closest my Grandma ever came to swearing was an emphatic “mercy.” Getting cut off by a bad driver on Foothill Blvd would solicit a robust “oh my.” And a shanked tee shot from my Grandfather over the fence and onto the 210 at Verdugo Hills would warrant an aghast “my stars, Ford.” Gentleness. My Grandma had a kind word for everyone, she was a great listener and, even when I was dominating her in a game of Aggravation, it was clear that she was crazy in love with me.
Second, faith oozed out of my Grandma. It was authentic, real and simple. There was this one time when she and my Grandpa led their pool cleaner to Jesus. They prayed together right there in her living room and then he went out to pour in the chlorine! Amazing. I remember so clearly being challenged by her faith. When she led the pool guy to Jesus I was working hard in my dorm to love my non-believing friends, and all of a sudden I was losing to Grandma 1-0! Honestly, the thing that feels the hardest to me in losing my Grandma is knowing that I lose, though only in an earthly sense, the consistent and faith-filled prayers that she would offer to Jesus on our behalf.
Lastly, my Grandma was tough. I mean tough. The kind of tough that could grow up on a farm in Missouri, that could wrangle three wild boys into godly grown men, and that could survive a kidney operation while her wacky husband was kayaking the freakin’ Alaskan Yukon. She wanted to live to be 100 and came up just short. Toughness comes from the core of who you are, and in that sense Grandma was great to her core.
A couple days ago, Grandma told a nurse “I’m just ready to go see Jesus.” Amen, Grandma. This morning you got your lifelong wish. Enjoy your rewards in heaven and hear the voice of Jesus say “well done, good and faithful servant!” Say hi to Grandpa for us. We love you.
Golly gee willakers Rob -I may be a little late in reading this one -but I’m glad I did. Great stuff.