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Odd Girl Out

Cassandra strolled over to the stone bench and plopped herself down next to Rebekah. The afternoon had that kind of cool that one anticipates at the start of autumn, and the sun was delightfully bright. The branches of yellow overhead gave these young women a comforting shade. A breeze occasionally brushed by and made the drying leaves rattle quietly.

The young woman shrugged the book bag from her shoulder onto the ground and flipped off her sandals. Rebekah was seated longways on the bench so that her feet were at the end of it. Cassandra threw hers to the opposite end and leaned against Rebekah’s back. Rebekah didn’t seem to notice the new bench mate—that is, until she found herself a living headrest.

“This isn’t going to work,” Rebekah protested. Cassandra sighed as she whirled her feet to the ground again. “But I’m tired! It’s hard to get up early after summer break!” Rebekah moved herself around to a proper sitting position. Together they could now see the line of students at the bookstore ahead of them. It was only at the beginning of the first semester that there seemed any time to be lazy and just talk. Today was such a day for Cassandra and Rebekah.

“There’s Amy again this year. Funny, I thought of her this morning.” Cassandra remarked concerning the young woman at the back of the line. “Oh, yeah?” answered Rebekah.

“Yeah. Like when I couldn’t find any of my skirts. I bet I left them at home and my little sister is before a mirror modeling each one as we speak. And, all my jeans were in the hamper. So I threw on this T-shirt and overalls. I couldn’t help but thinking how Amy…” Cassandra’s conscience halted her tongue. She leaned back, supporting herself on her arms and turned away from Amy to look up at the waving branches. “Rebekah, don’t you sometimes find her ways hard to understand? You know, how she dresses.”

Rebekah thought it good to lean back for a view of the branches as well. “I don’t know.”

“Have you ever seen her in something that Laura Ingalls wouldn’t wear?”

Rebekah cracked a smile at that, but only needed a second to reply. “Yeah, I know I’ve seen her in slacks once before. But I suppose more often than not it’s dresses and long skirts. If she has skin I know I’ve never seen it.” As Cass smiled she noticed that Rebekah fidgeted with the hem of her skirt, trying to pull it over her knees. The moment she seemed successful it stubbornly creeped up again.

“I think its taking things a bit too far.” Cassandra assured her friend. “I mean, I’ve got absolutely nothing against her personally. She’s certainly friendly to me and well, she’s neat, I guess. And so smart—and she knows the Bible inside and out. Maybe she could be a good preacher! But she’d sure look funny in the pulpit in one of those long-sleeved dresses like she’s wearing today!” Cassandra snickered as she imagined Amy in the pulpit with just such a garment.

Rebekah giggled, too, and bumped her friend’s shoulder with her own in mock chastisement. The two sat silently as the breeze animated the branches some more. Soon Amy disappeared into the bookstore as the line behind her continued to grow.

“She was over here just before you came. Amy, I mean.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“And I asked her just what you said—like, if she ever thought about being a preacher.”

“And what’d she say?”

“She laughed for a long time. I was getting a little red-faced. I don’t think she realized I was serious. She finally saw I was upset. That’s when she apologized and explained that in her church, women don’t even vote at the congregational meetings.”

“You’re kidding!” Cassandra sat upright to face her friend again. “Did you tell her that you were thinking of being a minister?”

“Well, not right then. First I wanted to understand how her church could take a stand that seemed to me so——”

“Primitive,” Cassandra offered.

“I guess it would seem like that. Like Victorian maybe. She said that her church did it because the Bible said so.”

“And? You didn’t try to argue Scripture with Ms. Moses herself, did you?” And that provoked another spell of mutual giggling.

“Well, I was so mad I dove for my book bag and pulled out my Bible. I turned to Galatians 3:28 and read where it said there was neither male nor female for we are all one in Christ. I told her that we are all believers, and the Reformers and confessions would say that we were all prophets, priests, and kings in Christ Jesus. We therefore can work right alongside of men in the service of the church. I told her I know I could do things a lot better than some of the men in my church”

“Did she whip out her Bible and gun you down?” Cassandra giggled as she made the motion of a quick draw from the hip and shouted “Pow! pow!”

Rebekah liked Cassandra. She could talk seriously and still have fun. But now her friend’s lightness seemed out of place as she recalled the recent encounter with Amy. “No, Cass. It was neat. She was very reasonable. She said, ‘Rebekah, do you believe that God in the beginning made man and woman as it says in Genesis?’ I told her I don’t believe the garbage about evolution that they’re trying to dump down our throats in this so-called Christian school. And she said, ‘I appreciate that remark very much. And so you would have to say that God made men and women differently?’ Well, what else could I say but, ‘Sure.’”

“I take it she wouldn’t like Jimmy Grebekken’s earrings,” Cass jested.

“I suppose not.” Cassandra could tell now that her friend was not really interested in her kidding. Rebekah continued. “But she wasn’t just talking about how we dress. She was talking about behavior, too. She said the churches were in serious trouble today because they are blurring the distinctions right along with the world.”

“OK, grant her that for the sake of argument. But then I would have asked her point blank how she could justify women having no voice in the church. What about equal rights? That’s pure subjection!”

Rebekah smiled. “That’s the exact word I used. Subjection. She patted me on the back and said, ‘Exactly!’ Well, if that was designed to make me hot it did, but she didn’t seem to notice. Then she said that, being made different by God, men and women serve Him in different ways and places. For instance, she said God tells us to be subject to our husbands. He says women are to remain silent and not to usurp authority over the man. In these ways we are showing ourselves as subject to the One who created women for His purposes. At that point I just had to see the scriptures. And she showed them to me. Here. I wrote them down.” And she handed her Bible to Cassandra with the paper sticking out of it. Cassandra looked at all the scriptures Rebekah had written on the paper. The ones Amy had shared with Rebekah were I Cor. 14:34-35; I Tim. 2:8-15 & 5:14; I Pet. 3:1-6; Eph. 5:22-33; Tit. 2:3-5. But as Amy pointed out there were others that they could look at later. The Bible gives clear direction for how God would have us each conduct ourselves as women or men. It may take some effort on our part to search out all the answers to our questions and, granted, much grace to carry it all out; but the help is there. He promised it would be, and our God is faithful to His promises.

So Rebekah talked as Cass turned the pages. “She also explained that God made man first, and the woman was made for man. I told her I didn’t like that. She said she finds it hard, too, but in order to please God and honor His role for her, she must submit to the truth.”

“But tell me what difference it makes whether or not a woman votes in church. I mean, why do they have to be so strict?”

Just then both girls heard a giggle from behind. And standing behind them was….

“Amy!” Cass tried to not to look surprised but her face was crimson. Rebekah tried to be welcoming, but her tongue was a bit tied, too.

Amy came to the bench and set a pile of new textbooks on the ground. “I should be ashamed for eavesdropping, but I had just come to invite Rebekah over for pizza. Cassandra, would you come, too?”

“I’d like that,” replied Cassandra. Rebekah urged Amy to sit and Cass quickly made room on the bench.

“Really, I didn’t hear much, but I did catch the question Cassandra just posed. May I chime in? It’s sort of like my favorite topic.” And that invited a little laughter, easing the tension. Cass smiled at Amy and gave her a nod.

“As Rebekah and I had discussed, women in the churches are accepted by God as believers just as are men, but we are not the same as men. And we have different ways than men in reflecting and fulfilling that office of believer simply because God made us different inside as well as outwardly.”

“Different ways of serving. You mean like changing diapers, scrubbing floors and genuflecting to men while dressed like a Muslim grandmother?” Cass said sarcastically. “Did you know that girls call you ‘Queen Victoria’ and guys call you ‘Frumpy Amy’?”

“Cass!” began Rebekah.

But Amy was laughing at Cass. “That’s OK. I know all about it,” she replied. “Do the names and jabs hurt? Well, sure. Particularly when it comes from the guys ‘cause you’d think they would honor a woman who is trying to please God by adorning the inner man and trying to be modest for their soul’s sakes. But forget the guys so much. First of all, I want to please God. Look. For me, the principles that guide my attitude toward my behavior as a woman are femininity and modesty. When I am picking from my closet each day I should have those two principles in mind. I do it to glorify God by, as I like to put it, ‘Glorying modestly in my femininity’.”

The conversation halted for a few moments. There wasn’t much of a line at the bookstore anymore. The sun had moved and the trio was losing its shade quickly. Cass squirmed on the bench as if she were struggling with something to say. Rebekah extended her bared legs a bit, then drew them back under the bench. In the end, she decided to go ahead and be comfortable but to throw her jacket over them.

Something finally bubbled to the surface and Cass interrupted the silence. “Amy, are you and the women of your church truly happy?”

Rebekah jerked at the frankness of her friend’s question. But Amy didn’t miss a beat.

“I can only speak for myself, Cass, but I couldn’t be happier. I have found peace. The women at the NOW chapter downtown stomp in anger and play at glorifying the woman while trying so hard to be men! God has graciously taught me to glorify Him. I want to be noticed as distinctively woman—and, most importantly, as distinctively God’s woman—not my own woman. And in our church we women gladly allow the men to lead and represent our families in the church. We realize they are often weak, too. Though we might think we are better off wresting from them their authority when they are weak, we choose rather to support them to make them strong. That includes encouraging them to represent us in the decisions of the church. Understand that doesn’t mean Mom and I don’t have our say with Dad. Our family discussions can become rather lively! But Mom and I recognize that Dad is the one that ultimately must cast the determining votes. He is the one whom God will hold most accountable for how he guided our family and our church. And that because he is a man. When I really think of that it’s hard for me to envy him at all.”

“Why does that seem so strange to me?” Cass mused. “And why do you seem the odd girl out these days. And what about Rebekah and women like her? She feels God is calling her to be a pastor. Is she wrong?”

“I somehow don’t feel the call anymore, Cass.” Rebekah interjected. “I’m wondering if the principles which Amy lives out each day that bring her reproach are really God’s will for all women. I’m thinking at least at this moment of being a teacher like you and Amy.”

“If you dressed like Amy, I’d recommend you teach a living history class!” Cass retorted with sputtering laughter.

Amy laughed and then took up the reply. “Actually, I think rather we’d be great models to those classrooms of girls—and boys—of what it truly is to be women of God. But first your heart must convince you of the principles of femininity and modesty that scripture speaks of, Cassandra.”

Rebekah rose from the bench and reached for her book bag. “I’d like you guys to come back to my room for a prayer session—and I’ll buy the pizza if it’s OK with Amy. And I’d like to show Amy my wardrobe and talk some more about all this. I know some other girls to call over, too. Maybe Amy is onto some inward and outward changes that we’d best consider as Christian women—even if it will seem out of place at the end of the 20th century. Cass, I once heard you say in a class that anything not popular in this post-Christian era is probably something God-honoring, right?”

Cass sighed. “You would remember that. Well, I copied it from my dad,” she admitted sheepishly. “But in the back of my mind I know there’s truth in that. I know pleasing God comes first, though you know more than anyone, Rebekah, how I struggle so much with the kind of heart He wants me to have. Maybe Ms. Moses has got it straight. I don’t know. It’s definitely worth some prayer and more discussion. And pizza! Can I come, too?”

“Of course, you goofball!” Rebekah said as she pulled her friend from the bench. And soon the three of them headed toward the dorms, arm in arm.

“Jimmy Grebekken is an Ed major, too.” Cass observed. “Think we girls can convince him to sell his earring collection to us?” And that cued a long roll of laughter. ♦