Day 5: #metoo, Mother Tamar, me too.
By: Michelle Higgins
The #metoo movement displays something akin to the core values of Black liberation: the most impacted people strategizing for their own freedom and self-determination. The victims of sexual abuse who speak up, along with the friends and family who support them and believe them, have become a community—a global neighborhood—that embraces fearlessness for the sake of protecting and dignifying the most marginalized in their worlds. They work in boldness as well as through intercession on behalf of friends too endangered and traumatized to speak. They are demanding answers to the question, “How long?!”
My sisters, how well we know this refrain. Black women been fighting for freedom since we first felt society’s chains: cover your curves, “talk proper,” make a man happy and “fix” your hair less nappy. Even churches have taught us that a woman’s freedom in Christ can only be known through the pleasing of men. We’re so poisoned by this mis-education that often we are not sure what liberation will mean if we ever really get it.
What then, to the woman, is freedom? Who is the Black woman unbound?
I’m still asking God that question. Still becoming the boldly weak and real, unbossed and unbought daughter of the coming King that the Holy Spirit wants me to be. In the waiting, it is the story of Jesus that gives me hope and dignity. And today His foremothers are speaking to me. Will you join me in God’s Word today?
Read Genesis 38
That the Apostle Matthew establishes the Lord’s connection to Tamar is a testimony to what God calls significant, and an invitation to us to view her as such.
One may assume Judah internalized the wickedness of his sons, which may have led to him feeling ashamed that he was incapable of raising a holy son. Despite his moral perversion, he was endowed with the power to make or destroy this woman’s life. Judah is the anti-Father.
Black Womanist bell hooks says there is no desire for male love stronger than that of a son’s or daughter’s craving for being known and nurtured by a dad.
Both Er and Onan died by God’s hand. In Onan’s wickedness, he sexually traumatizes Tamar. Judah’s response to the death of his sons is to punish Tamar with isolation. He does not say, “I will raise Shelah to be holy, so that you will have a husband who does not die.” He sees Tamar as a curse and wants her removed from him, but he still wants power over her. He makes her live as a widow so no one else can touch her. Ain’t that the same old game. Judah has the power to make Tamar invisible, and he treats her as disposable. By removing her from his tents, and making her wear extended widowhood while he has a living son (her rightful husband), he misuses his power and traps her into a social restraint. Judah makes Tamar a woman in waiting.
Instead of admitting that God punished his sons for their wickedness, Judah punishes a woman, an innocent scapegoat, for the sins of his wicked sons, perpetuated by their father. He denies Tamar a type of advent.
That two people so tangled in brokenness and abuse—one villainous and one scorned—appear in the lineage of the earth’s Messiah should reveal how deep and wide is God’s redemption, far as the curse is found. The King is coming, even through the tragedies He plans to redeem.
Advent is only hopeful waiting because the object of our longings is sure to return. To be denied hope in the midst of waiting is torture, not advent. We see this in the eyes of our sisters and brothers who share their stories of invisibility and assault. Promised a raise in exchange for going down on our knees. Told to dress nicely, to smile big or keep quiet for the sake of keeping a job, and keeping our abusers appeased. We are made to survive abuse, accept abuse, prove that it happened, explain and exploit its impact, protest for ourselves and protect ourselves against it, and shield men from the emotional impact of being held accountable. Hold up.
Mother Tamar is saying, “Enough. Rise up.” I wonder if the lineage of Jesus would have continued had it not been for the tragic boldness of Tamar.
Beloved, by the actions of a weary woman, weakened by scorn yet determined to have justice, our hope is secure. The King is coming, and He is already defending us.
God’s reaction to evil is justice. When Er messed up, Er got checked. When Onan despised Tamar’s body, God’s love for that woman’s body came through judgment of a man who dared to reject God’s beauty. When Tamar was scapegoated, made invisible, rejected and forgotten, she saw Wisdom weave pain into a freedom quilt, and carried out a “more righteous” action for her own vindication. She was given the boldness to break laws when those who were given the sacred responsibility to uphold God’s laws broke her. Vindication in the face of invisibility is the a gospel story.
God’s blessing to oppressed people is the proximity of their story to that of the Humble King. Our God drew near to the people who were considered disposable. Jesus became the scapegoat for all misogyny and sexual abuse. He made his divinity invisible so that the invisible might know their worth. Jesus came to a world full of toxic masculinity so that He could display true love and righteousness toward women. His fully divine fully human body indwelt a woman’s womb. He took on the human body of a man and embraced women with dignity. He embodied the very maleness He created in order to redeem it. He spoke comfort, power and peace in a world that valued women only to the extent of their ability to coddle, copulate and conceive.
To Tamar, Jesus whispers, “I see you, I treasure you.” He is the answer to the longing and lament of every #metoo.
Prayer [Rabbi Jill Zimmerman, Isaiah 40]
Blessed are those who reveal painful truths,
and blessed are those who bear witness.
Blessed are those whose unspoken story
affecting some parts of life, or coloring everything.
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her
that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins.