by Amy Tate
Empower means to enable, commission, license, qualify. Contemporary examples refer to the idea of giving strength to women who have been as a whole, oppressed, ignored, dismissed and even victimized by male dominated societies throughout history.
But for Christ followers, we have already been given all power and authority by the Holy Spirit, and so irregardless of the injustices of a lost world, we do not need to grasp for power as if it would save or protect us. Empowering women, then, should have a different connotation for women of the church. It is not engaging in power struggles against men or fallen systems, but the struggle against any sin (external or internal) that would keep us from walking freely in His power.
Our motivations for power should also be different from the world’s- not being a form of manipulation or control as a response to fear, for according to second Timothy 1:7, God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self control. And yes, this power is vastly different than the power in the world. God’s power is coupled with love and self-control.
In my personal study, I am reading in Judges. I came across an uncomfortable and disturbing part of scripture in Judges 11. In the margin of my bible I wrote, “I hate this vow.” Jephthah is placed in a position to lead and deliver Israel from the Ammonites who are warring against them over land disputes. In order to secure the Lord’s favor, Jephthah bargains with the Lord in the form of a vow. He says, “If you give me victory, then whatever comes out of my house to meet me will be the Lord’s and I will offer it as a burnt offering.” (paraphrased) Tragically, his is greeted by his daughter – his only child. Not exactly Hallmark material.
Much to my horror, worshipping in church, I felt God prompting me to use this text to introduce the empower conference and blog. I just sat there and cried, wondering why God would ask me to use a passage I found so revolting and offensive. This is the opposite of empowering women, I thought. But experience has taught me that like Jacob, He blesses those who push into Him to seek and struggle in order to know Him more.
I believe the interpretation of those commentators that believe her life was not physically sacrificed, since that would have been an abominable pagan practice, but instead her life would have been spent in temple service to the Lord, similar to that of a nun. I do not want to focus however, on the odd and thoughtless vow of her father, but rather his daughter’s noble response. He comes to her in mourning and explains what he has done. She replies in verse 36, “Since the Lord avenged your enemies, complete your vow, but give me two months to weep in the mountains with my friends.” (paraphrased). This daughter, whom the Jewish women remembered every year for four days, according to custom, has so much to teach us.
- First, she took time to mourn. She did not pretend that this was happy news, but faced her season of pain. Too often we run from pain, only to experience it for longer periods of time, or have it manifest in other destructive ways. She, in her youthful wisdom, knew when it was time to dance and when it was time to mourn. Some of us don’t do either, and we miss out on life.
- She knew she needed the support network of women. We need to find a group of ladies who have Christ in common.
- She surrounded herself with God’s creation. I do not think it an accident that she chose the mountains to mourn. Numerous secular studies have shown the relationship between nature and improved mental health. Beat Satan at his game- don’t play into his hand by staying isolated and indoors.
This young lady “wept for her virginity” because she was losing everything she had imagined for her future- a husband, children and a traditional place in society. Her pain was the loss of a dream, but that makes the loss no less real. Yet, in her pain, I am astounded that she did not waste time blaming her father’s poor choices, or her heavenly Father’s sovereignty that allowed those poor choices.
Sisters in Christ, let us lament with each other, so that, leaving all our sorrow at the foot of the cross, we may meet our Father with tambourines and dancing- celebrating often, his victories in our lives.
Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. – Corrie ten Boom