Rethinking Proverbs 3:5-6

Rethinking Proverbs 3:5-6

 

God gifted me with an inquisitive mind and empathetic spirit.  I’ve asked difficult questions since I was small. In first grade, I remember turning to my mom and dad for explanations on why God created different races, although I think at the time it was more, “Why do some people have a different skin color than ours?”

In the fourth grade, my family and I visited a church attended by many local residents. While I found the preacher’s style of delivery off-putting, I was most turned off by his use of the “n” word in his sermon.  Although I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina, in rural towns where people used the slur as flippantly as any other word, my soul always stirred in protest to its use.

I began to question the coexistence of racism and faith.  How can some preach the good news of Jesus’ love and grace and simultaneously spew hate language about others?  How can followers of God reconcile a faith in the Creator with their hate for His created?

By high school I was well aware of some people’s views on women and our place in the world and in the church.  Having a father who raised me to believe I can be and do anything, I struggled to understand philosophies which said otherwise, philosophies which placed me lower than a male on a hierarchical ladder simply because I was born a girl.

At this point in my faith journey, I had developed a close relationship with God, a personal parent-child dynamic which triggered more questions.  How can my God, my creator, see me, His daughter, as anything more than equal to His sons?  Why would God call for His daughters to be brought to Him yet approve of gender rankings which push us further away? (Isaiah 43:6)

College is often a time of discovery.  Many experiment with new-found freedom through parties and sexual escapades. My experimentation differed; I discovered my feminist voice, my liberal views, and my unbelief.

Being young and impressionable had less to do with my drifting than my innate desire to search and question.

The university environment fostered my desire to investigate.  French poet Antoinette du Ligier de la Garde Deshoulières predicted correctly when she said, “Seeking to know is only too often learning to doubt.”

When some of my questions about the coexistence of faith and inequality (gender, race, and sexual orientation) couldn’t be answered by the teachings of my faith or by the teachers of my faith, the rope of belief was severed and I began the free-fall into agnosticism. 

Choosing to walk away from my faith was definitely a personal choice; however, it had less to do with my unwillingness to accept the word of God as truth and more to do with believers’ unwillingness to engage in conversations which challenged their interpretations of truth in the gospel.

Today, years after my redemption and return to God, my questions are still answered by some believers with mini sermons on Proverbs 3: 5-6 which instructs, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight.”

The implication of this verse is clear; my views are not inspired by God, but my own reasoning and emotion. It also implies my thinking is crooked or misinformed in some worldly way, and by submitting to God, I will have my thoughts corrected to be in line with God’s word.

There are two things wrong with this use of Proverbs 3:5-6.  One, it shames the listener because it suggests she is not in accordance with the word of God; two, it presupposes her failure to hear from God, erroneously indicting her own thoughts and emotions as barriers to proper biblical edification.

My own upbringing serves to rebut claims that my thoughts and feelings on gender equality are my own.  I grew up in a conservative, rural town in the heart of the Bible Belt.  Although the hearts of residents are good, the ingrained bigotry and patriarchy is not.  My aversions, from a young age, to the predominant ideologies on race, gender, and sexual orientation are counter intuitive to the culture in which I was raised.

While I could peruse scripture and find verses to prove I am trusting in the Lord with my whole heart, it wouldn’t accurately reflect the shaping of my theology or the evolution of my spiritual journey.  It wouldn’t capture the idea that for some of us, our identification with egalitarianism and other progressive ideologies is a result of an innate understanding of how God views us.  It’s more abstract than a concrete scriptural reference, but just as important, as it’s the Holy Spirit’s directive.

Brennan Manning, author of Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging, captures the experience of the Holy Spirit’s edict when he writes the following:

“To ignore, repress, or dismiss our feelings is to fail to listen to the stirrings of the Spirit within our emotional life. Jesus listened. In John’s Gospel we are told that Jesus was moved with the deepest emotions (11:33)… The gospel portrait of the beloved Child of Abba is that of a man exquisitely attuned to His emotions and uninhibited in expressing them. The Son of Man did not scorn or reject feelings as fickle and unreliable. They were sensitive antennae to which He listened carefully and through which He perceived the will of His Father for congruent speech and action.”

My understanding of God and the equitable love of God for all of humanity originates from an internal groaning, rumbling, and stirring of emotions experienced when some dismiss women, devaluing God’s daughters and image bearers. 

The quickening of my pulse and the queasiness in my stomach which form when I encounter hate and injustice for any marginalized group is the Holy Spirit, and it is “far from being any whisper, or immediate suggestion or revelation; but that gracious holy effect of the Spirit of God in the hearts of the saints” (Edwards)

As I settle into Proverbs 3:5-6, I will continue to trust in the Lord.  I will continue to lean in to the stirrings of my soul, submitting to the will of God.  I will continue to give voice to the abstract directives of the Holy Spirit, rejoicing as my path merges seamlessly with my Creator’s.

 

Citations

Edwards, Jonathan. The Religious Affections. United States: Renaissance Classics, 2012. Print.

Manning, Brennan.  Abba’s Child. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002. Print

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This