By Maria Bautista Vargas
image_6483441“Tamar, Rahab, Ruth. Never heard of them? Here’s to those ladies of the Bible that get things done under the radar!”

The first Ladies’ Night invitation was short and sweet. Yet, when reading it myself I realized that I, too, didn’t know much, if anything, about those women in the Bible. Of course, I knew some things about the Virgin Mary and I had heard of some female biblical characters throughout our Sunday School lessons, but not much, not enough. Were there even women involved in the early church? If so, what were they doing?  The few that I had heard of did not seem to be up to anything good. I was told one was a prostitute; one had “too many” husbands. I was told that there were clear indications in the Bible of what the perfect wife should be – see Proverbs 31, a seemingly insane list of unachievable characteristics. So, I was curious. Who were these ladies that got things done?

I wasn’t the only one who wondered. Over the course of our Ladies’ Nights, we have learned about incredible women such as Phoebe, Prisca, Rhoda, Lydia (Paul’s church ladies), Mary Magdalene, and many more women some of us had never heard of before. Through readings of scriptures, teachings from Rev. Eileen and through group reflections, we gained insight into their impact and importance in the biblical narrative and also their significance in the narratives of our lives and world right now.

Ladies’ Night is not just an opportunity for bible study but also a safe place where vulnerability is welcomed. As we recognize the women in our own lives who have empowered us or shown us how to exercise authority, we are able to open up and share stories and reflections that arise through the readings. We have been able to create a place where troubling moments and requests for prayer are shared and a place where doubts and questions are welcomed. Ladies’ Night has become a place where our different spiritual journeys are recalled, where ladies from all different cultures and educational backgrounds are brought together. The group brings together ladies with children, married ladies, single ladies, etc, in an atmosphere of true welcome to share their own experiences with the readings, women in the Bible, and their own lives.

We talk about hard subjects that need to be discussed. While reading Proverbs 31, we found ourselves drawn into a discussion about the gender roles that women may choose and the roles that are chosen for us, and the way these roles shape our stories today in 2018. What is a women? What makes a good wife? What makes a good mother?  Much shame and anxiety attaches itself to these questions, and our religious tradition has not always been particularly helpful in this regard.  While reading about the history of portrayals of Mary Magdalene through the gospels and through the ages, questions about the nature of female authority and the portrayal of the female as sinner/prostitute/temptress emerged from the saga. How do we find ourselves in stories largely told and preached by men over the centuries?

Month after month we look forward to seeing one another. We have become close and have learned to trust one another. One of the most beautiful things we do, I think, is ask for prayers and thanksgivings from the group. Having the opportunity to uplift that each other in prayer, not only for the night, but throughout the month, is powerful and humbling experience. We are learning to embrace our imperfections; we are learning the art of vulnerability.  The female voices emerge from scripture to speak to us, making old stories new. Together we are walking deeper into our faith and tradition while asking questions and offering critiques that we might have been afraid to say out loud.

“Tamar, Rahab, Ruth. Never heard of them? Here’s to the ladies that get things done under the radar.” Are you wanting to learn more about the fierce, leading women in the Bible while building community with other incredible, strong women? If so, I invite you to join us Friday, May 4 at 7pm for Ladies’ Night on the southeast side of Houston.