Unintentionally I have read three books about women and either the church or Jesus in the last month. We all have buttons, and as long as I don’t read about women and the church too often one of my major buttons doesn’t get pushed. To read three within one month, I know, I know, I know.
Here’s the thing, when I think about women and the church, I have to suppress a scream.
My questions are reduced to one agonizing word at a time. Why? How? When? But when I actually look at Jesus and women, I have the opposite response. Seen. Known. Loved. Valued. If you are in need of a little more Jesus and women Frank Viola and Mary DeMuth’s latest book The Day I Met Jesus is a balm. (Or here for $6.97)
Five women share about the day they met Jesus: the woman caught in adultery, the prostitute who loved too much, a desperate Samaritan woman, the woman with a flow of blood, and the woman whom Jesus loved (Mary of Bethany). Mary DeMuth writes a diary entry from the perspective of each woman.
If cheesy historical fiction makes your skin crawl and sappy, poorly written Christian fiction embarrasses you, me too. I did not once want to roll my eyes. And people, that is to say, Mary’s got skill. I see these women in a broader light than I used to. Afterward the diary entry, Frank explains the historical context and what each of these woman has to offer to us today.
Outside of historical context, here is why this book matters. On Thursdays I spend lunch with a group of international students at Denver University. Some stay afterwards for a free English culture and conversation class I help teach. Many of the international students are visiting scholars from China and Thursdays are my happy day right now.
I love Thursdays, I love Thursdays, I love Thursdays.
The week of Valentine’s Day another volunteer decorated the lunch tables with Valentine’s napkins and festive candy. Ms. Xiao has almost non-existent English yet faithfully attends both the meal and English class. On Valentine’s Day she sat across from me at lunch and for dessert picked up a heart-shaped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Now, I have to admit, I get tired of hearing how sweet desserts and candy are. Yes, they are sweet. Stop eating them and commenting/complaining. Compassion and love, just like Jesus if he was channeling a cranky Amy.
So, when Ms. Xiao popped the heart candy in her mouth, I braced myself. Her eyes opened wider and wider with a look of what amazing thing have I put in my mouth. I smiled and said in simple English, “Chocolate and peanut butter. It is good, isn’t it?”
I doubt Adam had as much joy as she did as he ran around naming the animals. From now on when the verse “taste and see that the Lord is good” comes to mind, so will Ms. Xiao and her peanut butter cup.
In the English class we looked at Gary Chapman’s five love languages. I knew Ms. Xiao was missing a lot but hoped that with the handout she was getting the basics. When it came time for partner practice, I paired myself with her and another woman. I was surprised to see her tears. Not falling down her face, but welling in her eyes.
Class ended and in the midst of all the goodbyes, Ms. Xiao came directly to me, hugged me and proclaimed, “Amy, I love you.” The tears never abated.
Was she realizing ways she hadn’t loved her husband well? Or ways that she had been loved and maybe hadn’t recognized it as such? I don’t know. What I do know is she tasted and saw that Love is good.
Jesus didn’t just seek out five women years ago. He seeks out women today. Buy this book, read their stories. Tell yours.
I have a pretty amazing “I met Jesus story” from this week and will share it soon. How about you? Where have you met Jesus this week?