Eser keneg'dô, the name Chawwah and what a bridal corset can do to us- the strength of women.
Updated: Apr 14
"But you, brothers and sisters, were called to freedom. But see to it that through freedom you do not give place to the flesh, but through love serve one another."(Galatians 5:13)
"And he give you enlightened eyes of the heart, that ye may know what hope ye are called of him, how rich is the glory of his inheritance for the saints." (Ephesians 1:18)
My dear friends, dear women of faith,
do we believe that God's plans are good for our lives? That he is truly good and love, or do we believe, so deep down, that walking with God is rather an unbearable sacrifice after all? Do we believe that he leads us to freedom - to inner freedom, to joy, to peace - or do we really believe that he locks us up in a castle that we are not allowed to leave, while right in the town square there is the bustling life of a happy, boisterous fair whose laughter resounds to us? Do we think that the exuberance at the nightly May fire would suit us much more than the eternal piety, praying and fulfilling the demands of faith?
It is a heretical, a mean question that I ask here at the beginning of this article.
But it is an important question.
If we are constantly looking longingly over the castle wall, thinking that there are a thousand pleasures out there that are "forbidden" to us as Christians, but that would do us so much good, we will have a hard time loving God. If we actually feel as if we have to permanently fight against ourselves in order to somehow satisfy God, we will suppress one thing above all others - namely our strength, our joy of life, our self-expression - our joy - and our heart. We become bitter. We become beastly, we become subtly aggressive. And because we think we should be more grateful to God (but we are just not), we are inwardly ashamed of the desire to live in real power and fullness, in the ground.
Do we believe God or the serpent?
That's a good question, isn't it? Do we see all that God gives us, under the condition of a tree from which we should not eat because it harms us-or do we believe the serpent who asks us with feigned dismay if it is true that this cruel God has forbidden us to take anything from the abundance that He gives? That he forbids us to do anything that somehow has to do with having fun and just being loose? It is a question of perspective, of the direction of our gaze.
If I warn my son against rowan berries because they are poisonous, I don't at the same time forbid him to plunder the currant bushes as much as he wants. He may do that, and even if there is nothing left for me from the raspberries next to them, I will gladly, gladly allow him the pleasure of stuffing those delicious little fruits inside. That's what they were planted for- may he enjoy them. Prohibiting raw elderberries or rowan berries then certainly does not make me a despot, but...a keeper of his life.
In fact, I mainly do not look at beaming faces when I face my brothers and sisters in faith, whether men or women. No, on the contrary. Doggedness. Intentional meekness, seething underneath. Men who either seem kind of limp and bored- or who break out and, with bangs and trumpets and relentless insistence, "claim the authority" that God has given them- not infrequently at the expense of women.
And what about us, us daughters of Eve?
Most women's events consist of the recurring lyric (and let's face it: after a few years you get the point, it gets really boring): "You are beautiful. You are loved. You are a king's daughter, and here is the crown."
Children's carnival for pious women.
And poof- the themes turn back to weight, to children, to men, to intercession and the vexed self-worth. And of course about the fact that we are somehow...absolutely not happy in this tight bridal corset. Women's praise - that is, women's praise - often makes me almost depressed for a time: "But you, Jesus, you see my worth, you say I am beautiful, I am valuable."
The wound, dear women, is deeper than we want to admit.
Tight bridal corset.
When I got married, I looked stunning. In fact, I never felt more beautiful than I did that day. But I also could never eat so little again. It just didn't work--my stomach was tied up.
Under my Southern wedding dress, truly a dream come true, beautiful like the dresses in the movie "Gone with the wind", I wore a herringbone lingerie corset, tightly laced. The next day I was horrified to discover the blue welts on my ribs. Three days later, the sides still ached. While I wore it, I hadn't even noticed the damage it brought. I didn't realize how little air I was getting in the dress until I could breathe freely again the next day. No longer so stunningly beautiful, but at least able to spoon tiramisu out of the bowl with pleasure. A year of consistent dieting, solarium, nail care, walking upright, training in grace lay behind me. I wanted the perfect appearance-and was prepared to invest a great deal.
The image of women in the Christian church is such a religious corset.
To fulfill it, you must eat very little, you must walk upright, and you must ignore the pain it leaves behind. But then...one is considered beautiful. But none of us can keep it up.
Is this what God imposed on Eve? What is this irrepressible thirst for life, for meaning, that simply cannot be quenched in us? Is it the deceiver, the father of lies, who wants to "lead us astray?"
No, dear ones. It is the life force out of which and toward which we were created- for Satan lied when he subtly conveyed that we must not eat of the trees in Eden. Somehow...we still believe him, though.
I love that name.
It is the Hebrew name of Eve, the first woman. Eve- "the life-giver." This name alone has a very different dynamic than the image of the young, graceful, corset-laced noblewoman with embroidery work, handkerchief and little trippy steps that dominates the bridal movement of the Christian scene.
Life-giving. Thundering waterfalls, blossoming gardens, tree branches groaning under the weight of fruit, vitality, strength and a primal, wild beauty and lushness unfolds before my eyes. A creation that brings forth abundance, that nourishes, that sustains and that saturates the eyes. Vastness, diversity and freedom.
But Chawwah contains other meanings:
Yes, we can all identify with that, can't we? And the first image that pops up makes me smile: "Honey, we need to talk"-and the fear-filled look of the man being addressed, who can't see anything good coming. Why is that?
Well, Chawwah contains a third meaning: "the meaning-maker, the meaning-giver."
"You say that so meaningfully". Do you know that phrase? When women "want to talk"-there is something wrong that needs to be put on the table.
When women become spokespersons, they often point out grievances, imbalances. Women are deep, they have the need to get through to the truth and set things right that are out of balance. They have a sixth sense for these imbalances and sense danger before it is noticed.
And then- they intervene. Eser keneg'dô.
What sounds like a spell from Harry Potter, (eeeser kene' gdo) is actually the Hebrew term for what Luther described as "I will make him a help meet for him." (Genesis 2:18).
Over the centuries, this help became, at best, a faithful wife who was somehow rewarded for her child-rearing efforts. What we know today as equality is also rather an equal position, a no more failure of equal work areas, equal payment and position. Equivalence however...is not really.
Eser, however, means "divine intervention in emergency situations."
In the Old Testament, the term appears 22 or 23 times, depending on how you count. Twice the term is used for the woman, 18x for God himself. Psalm 121 states:
"I lift up my eyes to the mountains. From where does help come to me? 2 My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth."
The word used here for help is eser.
Eser is used in two other contexts: As a lifesaver of others, and as one who steps into the breach, who intervenes to save from danger of life.
Women-they are Eser.
With their longing for true meaning, for life and relationship, for bringing things into balance, and their communicative ability to address things and speak truth, they become life savers.
What women carry within them is a strength of inconceivable beauty - life-giving, relationship-creating, clarifying help. Women question superficiality and true heart attitude, women are not satisfied with the frame, they want to fathom, justify, create life. Women want to paint sketches, fill spaces with joy and beauty, with depth and encounter.
And: they warn where this is lost.
keneg'dô: "complementary counterpart to man."
Women are different from men, they have different priorities that often seem to oppose the forwardness and pragmatism of men. Well, they actually do!
"A woman's hand is missing here"....
hardly any woman I know didn't think this sentence the first time she stood in her boyfriend's bachelor pad. A slight frown at the sobriety in the rooms. Of the pragmatism that spreads. And it's the warmth, the joy of courtship, and that intangible feminine aura that completely engulfs a man at the beginning of a romance and makes him actually buy rose stores empty or, depending on the type of woman, tie a bow around the Football game tickets that were so expensive but are meant to show: You are valuable.
Eser- they give life, meaning and relationship, they save from lost sight for life, for beauty and "what else counts in life". They are stunning, strong and radiant, capable of suffering and resilience, they overlook situations and address conflicts that men like to sweep under the rug.
They talk, they create social community, they are welcoming and inviting. A woman in her power, in her purpose is breathtaking- whether she is an architect, a social worker, or a teacher. Whether she's in a blue coat or a proffessor. Whether pretty overweigh or thin, short or tall, full of youthful freshness and beauty, or with the wisdom and gentleness in her eyes that make older women such great advisors.
A suitable counterpart, a complementary counterpart, the suitable "help"- women only become so when they free themselves from the corset that is much too tight. When they leave the role of helpers and become aware of their strength. And when they get the space and the recognition that their abilities need.
What is the condition then?
Doesn't reality look really different? Superficiality, competition, mutual devaluation, catfighting? Coldness, teasing, being quarrelsome? Superficial chatter and constant comparing? Insecurity, eating disorder and depression? Anxiety disorder and rejection of womanhood? Struggle against narrowness, stereotypes and corsets?
Well, dear ones:
It is only possible when we understand to what glory we were created. And when we understand that God did not forbid us to eat from all the fruits that grow in the garden- but only warned us not to poison ourselves.
The next few posts will be about the deeper identity we have in God-what power and fullness is truly available to us when we understand who we are in Jesus-and what we have heard and been taught for centuries in contrast. I hope it will be eye-opening, and not just for women.
The weekly impulses and further deepening of the weekly article can be found -as always- on my
social media presence https://www.facebook.com/Sibyllezion/ and in the related community groups.
Sibylle/ Daughter of Zion.
Bible: Here: Luther 2017, rev. Elberfelder translation 2016. www.bibleserver.com
John & Stasi Eldredge: "Captivating- unveiling the mystery of a woman's soul."
Stasi Eldredge: "Becoming myself-embracing God's dream for you"
Kenneth E. Bailey: "Women in churches"
Susanne Barth: "Virgin's discipline." Literary and pedagogical studies of girls' education literature between 1200 and 1600.
Worship: Amy Grant & Ellie Holcomb: A woman. From: Faithful.