Monday, 2 April 2012

Strange Women

The large room was packed full of African women drawn from various countries. This was our time to flee from our daily responsibilities and come together for a couple of days to be refreshed in God’s presence. God knows we needed it. As Christian women, we often find ourselves pulled in multiple directions all at once – by church positions and responsibilities, husbands, children, careers, running a clean and peaceful household (with food in it) … The list is endless, and every year, in my experience, just gets busier.

A one-hour prayer session began. The usual prayer topics I’ve come to expect at this sort of gathering. We prayed for our children, for our homes, for our health, for our spiritual lives, about family finances … As we dwelt on these topics, the prayer in the room was collectively maintained at a nice, polite, even tempo.

And then, we were led in a prayer to ‘unseat the strange woman’ in our husbands’ lives.

This prayer point had a poetic ring to it, I thought, as I turned the phrase around in my mind … “unseating the ‘strange woman’.”  I fought to hide a smile as the phrase suddenly seemed comical to me. The point was to pray against women that were serving (or that could potentially serve) as a distraction to the husbands of the Christian women represented in the room, that were coming in and invading Christian households, that were appearing on the scene and snatching women’s husbands away. The polite tempo of the prayers in the room immediately shifted into a frenzy that rose until the room was literally shaking. Women around me screamed, cried, yelled. I could sense some fighting physically with the air, contending against invisible 'strange women.' Others clapped their hands forcefully, and stomped their feet in anger and indignation, binding the ‘strange woman,’ and commanding the grip of this mysterious, evidently powerful, and seductive woman on their husbands to be released.

I eventually found myself overwhelmed with sadness, and weeping on the inside in reaction to all I could hear and feel around me, my eyes tightly closed. My heart broke with every rising octave of the corporate prayer, as I witnessed (or sensed) ordinarily dignified Christian women, whom I greatly respected, morph into something I can’t adequately describe. ‘Was this really happening?’ I wondered. Were Christian marriages really this fragile? Had we really been reduced to this as women of God?

I battled with waves of embarrassment brought about by this pathetic scenario. Although no longer married, I tried to keep myself focused on praying for God to protect and intervene in the marriages of those around me. I was jolted out of this prayer attempt, though, by multiple cries of ‘Every strange woman in my husband’s life, I unseat you, in Jesus’ Name!’

Where was this paranoia stemming from? What on earth has happened to Christian men? How on earth did we get to this place? What is the church doing about all this? Surely, the solution can’t be in yet another annual women’s retreat to encourage faithful Christian women to hold on for one more year, for the next meeting, for the next renowned visiting pastor, for the next prophetic word, for the next dab of anointing oil.

Who on earth is working with Christian men? Why is there an assumption that men automatically ‘know’ how to be men, while women need constant, intensive Christian training throughout their lives? Where is the parallel annual men’s retreat? The parallel men’s prayer meetings and special bible studies? Why does it seem like the preservation of a Christian marriage is solely a woman’s burden to bear? 

It would be sooooo refreshing to see a room full of African, Christian men, crying out to God for their wives and children (perhaps even rebuking ‘strange men’), and crying out to Him to establish them as true men of God.

I was heartbroken that it had come to this. Heartbroken because I instinctively knew that these same women would return for the retreat in 2013 and pray just as fervently over this same prayer point all over again.

Does the solution lie in intercessory prayer, I wondered, or in finally making men a major project of the church?

Another approach I’ve seen Christian women rely upon to protect their marriages involves shunning their unmarried peers. I could never understand this approach, as it has always seemed really un-Christ-like to me. After an unmarried friend of mine ‘took up’ with my former spouse, I finally ‘got’ it (J), but I still didn’t (and don’t) embrace the mentality. If I have to live in perpetual fear of my Christian spouse’s infidelity, then there’s a problem.  

If this is what it takes to keep a Christian marriage together, then what’s the point of marrying a believer (not that I’m even remotely suggesting that a Christian shouldn’t, but you have to wonder …)? Why should a Christian woman who married a fellow believer have to invest so much time offering prayers meant for the ‘unsaved’? 

If we’re not ready to invest time preparing men to be Christian husbands, then there’s no point emphasizing to Christian women that they must marry believers – because if we don’t prepare a generation of believing husbands, then there are none.