My mother’s Bible always looks like it’s about to burst at the seams. She circles, stars, and underlines verses with special meaning. Some passages have dates written in the margins, sometimes with notes about a particular occasion, or about what the verse meant to her at the time.
My mother filed sermon notes, newspaper clippings, pages from devotionals, pictures, birth certificates, church bulletins, and wedding programs in between the pages of her Bible. Our family’s story was wrapped up in the stories of Noah’s Ark, Samson and Delilah, King David, Solomon’s Temple, Jonah and the whale, Queen Esther, John the Baptist, Jesus, the disciples, Paul, and even Revelation.
Pages from the Bible also wove their way into our lives, sometimes in odd ways. We had a chart with the names of the 66 books of the Bible above the TV, so that while I was watching Little House on the Prairie or Gilligan’s Island, I could memorize the books of the Bible during commercial breaks.
I loved reading the Bible and sharing it with others. I volunteered as a teacher at Vacation Bible School and as a counselor at Bible Camp as soon as I was old enough. I started Bible studies in high school and college. As a teenager, I even wrote my own commentary on the book of Hosea.
Every once and a while, a boy in youth group would find a verse like 1 Timothy 2:15 and taunt the girls with it, saying: “You’ll only be saved through childbearing!” I knew better than to take their teasing too seriously, but it still bothered me. I was confused and grieved when adults I respected used the Bible to show me that women shouldn’t teach—they should be quiet and submissive instead.
I didn’t know how to understand these verses, but my instinct told me to keep reading. The verses people quoted to limit women’s roles also limited God by putting restrictions on who God could use. I knew the Bible well enough to know that God doesn’t operate within those kinds of limits on who is worthy of the Lord’s service.
As a child, I was encouraged to read the Bible. As I grew older and became more serious about studying and teaching the Bible, other Christians started discouraging me, and I began questioning myself. The old taunts were still there, and the authority of some of my Sunday school teachers still carried weight.
I came to a crossroads in which I could either give up on the Bible, or get into it more deeply than ever. I chose to dig in, and God has been faithful to provide a community of Christian men and women who have helped me grow in my knowledge of Scripture. Now I understand passages that seem to silence women in the context of the challenges faced in the New Testament church, which may or may not have parallels in today’s contexts.
In the New Testament churches, women who had not yet been discipled or who were leading others astray were sometimes singled out for special criticism or instruction. While women in these circumstances were silenced, women like Priscilla were called upon to speak with authority, and teach other church leaders.
My mother’s Bible symbolizes to me the sense I’ve always had that God is at work in our lives, just as he was in biblical times. Examples like Priscilla are some of the passages that are starred and underlined in my Bible.