“Where was the God of Deborah? Deborah, whose words ‘March on, my soul; Be strong!’ echoed God’s affirmation of the strength and leadership of women. Where was the God of Hagar? Hagar, who was cast out in a desert as hot as the one where I stood, certain she would die only to be met by the living God and living water. Where was the God of Mary? Mary, who was greeted with the words, ‘The Lord is with you,’ words unmistakable in their promise. My soul ached with the absence of God; the woman’s eyes mirrored the vacancy I felt.” fromWhat a Woman is Worth Civitas Press 2014 “Relentless Pursuit” by Marilyn Gardner page 87.*
The story was in a well-known newspaper in Pakistan, published back in May. The title hid nothing and I didn’t want to read the article. “Woman Stoned to Death Outside Lahore High Court”.
I clutched my stomach, nauseated and feeling weak. An honor killing outside the High Court in Lahore, a city in Pakistan; a 25 year-old woman stoned to death, large bricks picked up and thrown at her until she was pronounced dead at the hospital. Her family? They were included in the group of attackers stating they had a right to do this, she had shamed the family name.
And I weep at this injustice, this gross misunderstanding of honor and shame, this tragic and polluted view of women. A distorted theology, an incorrect belief. Cultural views are not all benign. Some are plain wrong. There is no excuse for this atrocity. Neither is there an excuse for the atrocities of rape on college campuses in Ivy league schools with people who have no cultural view of honor and shame. Or the gang rapes resulting in death in India. All are wrong. All are sinful. All should be condemned. There are too many events like this in our world and the heart of evil and sin is like a killer weed that takes over and covers everything in its path, crowding out the beauty with ugly.
And I wonder – Where is the God of Deborah? Where is the God who fights, who goes before us? And I wonder – Where is the God of Hagar? Where was he with this woman? And I wonder – Where is the God of Mary, the God-bearer? The blessed Theotokos?
But he is here. He is with the women around the world who fight against this every, single day at great cost. Those who stand up for justice and fight for human rights and dignity; those who are in the business of rescue and advocacy. They are the Deborahs of our world. They are the ones who march on. They are the ones who give of their time, their talent, their love to make a difference.
Where is the God of Deborah? He is with Myra Lal Din – a Pakistani woman with a dream to change the status of education for girls in Pakistan. Myra attended the same school that I did in Pakistan. When she was 13 the school was attacked by fundamentalist terrorists and she relocated to Thailand to finish her education. She recognizes that most girls in Pakistan are not so lucky. And so she longs to make a difference. She says this: “Through my work with young children, I discovered that I felt called to use education to try to bring real, lasting change to the kinds of opportunities that are available for young women in my own country. I want to make sure that every woman in Pakistan has an opportunity to experience the kind of life-changing education I did without having to escape to another country to do it.”
Where is the God of Deborah? He is at a women and children’s hospital in Shikarpur, Sindh where primarily Pakistani staff work daily to meet the health care needs of the community, offering living hope, living water in the desert.
Where is the God of Deborah? He’s in Haiti where midwives work to provide safe care and deliveries to those most in need.
Where is the God of Deborah? He is in Djibouti, where girls learn to love running, to find safety in community.
Where is the God of Deborah? He’s with the rescuers in Thailand, who brave a corrupt system and dangerous pimps to rescue, to love, to speak truth into the lives of women.
Where is the God of Deborah? He is in the hard places, with us as we take a stand against injustice even as we reel with nausea from the horror of these acts of violence.
Where is the God of Deborah? He is still here. He is still present. He is still at work. He is still saying ‘Who touched me’ like he did so long ago on dusty streets in Palestine. He is still restoring, relentlessly pursuing, loving, healing, freeing women from their suffering. This I must believe. This I do believe.
“I would never stop believing that worth could be restored by a relentless pursuit, an unstoppable love, and the words “Go in peace and be free from your suffering.” from What a Woman is Worth Civitas Press 2014 “Relentless Pursuit” page 88.*
Where have you seen the God of Deborah work in your community?
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Note: This article has been adapted from one previously published on Communicating Across Boundaries.