2 Timothy: “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.” He encourages Timothy to rekindle the gift of God in him, “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power….”
It is clear in the Bible that women were in positions of power and influence. In other letters of Paul, we see clear examples of women running the churches. And here, in regards to Timothy, it is clear that the reason he is Christian has to do with a faith that was passed to him through women. This matrilineal line of faith did more than just teach him the faith. From later in the letter, we discover that all the sacred writings, including Torah instruction, were entrusted to his mother and grandmother.
This is extraordinary behavior, especially for that time. Later in history, the church regressed and lost its way, repressing women in later centuries, keeping them from leadership, and lifting up a few verses of Paul that seem to indicate that women should be silent. Forget about the volumes of other examples in the Bible where women are lifted up, revered, put in positions of authority, huh?
We are still struggling to make up ground and reclaim the faith that was ours from the beginning. When are we going to embrace the Bible and its radical message, and stop making excuses for our own sexism? When are we going to stop using the Bible to justify our own false narratives about power and let God be God? When are we going to stop lifting up a couple verses about women being silent and read the rest of the Bible?
The picture above is of Rose Nicaud. Few may know her name – maybe even very few New Orleanians may know her name – but her legacy can be felt (and tasted) every day in New Orleans today. Rose was a former slave who purchased her freedom, and sold cafe-au-lait in the French Market in the early 1800s. “Old Rose” is now recognized as the first New Orleans street vendor to offer fresh coffee, a trailblazer, beginning with a push-cart, a humble business plan, and serving to French Market vendors. Her vision and simple business plan was followed and built upon by many others, and today Cafe du Monde and other businesses continue that tradition.
But on another level Rose is an icon – as one who stood against a culture of racism that was already growing in this country. In Creole culture it was much more a norm for a woman to be a business owner. But if you know anything of the history of slavery and oppression in this country you might know how powerful the story of a successful black business woman in the early 1800s can be, and how the dominant culture might have wanted that narrative to disappear.
I am thankful for the spirit of power and courage that God gave Rose Nicaud.
I am thankful for the spirits of mothers and grandmothers, many of whom brought us to the faith. I am thankful for my mother and grandma too!
I also long for the day when sexism, racism, classism, and all the other evil isms will die a swift death. They plague us and cause us to sin against one another. The good news is that we have made it thus far, and God has recruited us to set the pace for excellence, and given us another chance to mend past errors and reclaim the faith of our forefathers and foremothers, wherever their story rises.