Growing up I learned that God wants us to be kind, love one another, and respect authority. Somehow along the way I incorrectly adapted that message into that I should not “ruffle any feathers” and instead I should seek to make “peace” in all situations. I became very shy aside from the rare occasion I simply could not stop myself from speaking out against injustice, but even then it was often in a whisper tone (and mainly because I simply couldn’t help myself from saying something, not because I thought I was being a “good Christian” by chiming in and making waves). I would often feel great shame afterward that I had made things more serious or said something that caused someone to feel sad because I disagreed with their opinion. I thought any challenge to authority (or anyone for that matter) was looked down upon, even if I knew with conviction that they were wrong or may need a word or two of wisdom or counsel. No one specifically told me that outright, but it is what I extrapolated and internalized.
As I entered my adult life, I started to realize how much God instilled in me a passion for helping people grow through their issues, and a love of justice within church structures. These areas where I used to feel guilt that I wanted to challenge the status quo, I began to realize were good gifts God gave me to steward, not merely fleshly desires I had to tame in order to submit.
I was in my mid-twenties before I first actively heard the story of Abigail, and I only stumbled upon it because I had just made a friend named Abigail and realized I wasn’t familiar with her story. If you haven’t read it, I highly encourage it! You’ll find it in 1 Samuel 25:2-42. Upon first read, I was drawn to this story as I had not previously felt I had permission as a Christian woman to “be an Abigail.”
The Story of a Discerning Diplomat
The gist of the story is David had sent his men to visit a man named Nahal, whose wife was the beautiful and intelligent Abigail. David’s men looked out for Nahal’s men and their flocks and kept harm from coming to them. David then requested Nahal send his men back with some gifts, but instead of granting this request, Nahal insulted David and sent his men packing. When David heard this, he committed to killing Nahal and all his men. A servant of Nahal went to Abigail, told her what had happened, and said, “…see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over the master and his whole household…”
Abigail then gathered gifts for David and without her husband’s knowledge, hurried to greet him, where she humbly apologized for what her husband had said. David praised her for her good judgment and assured her she was the reason there would be no bloodshed. She returned home where her husband was drunk and partying. The next day she told him what happened, and his heart was hardened. Ten days later he passed away. When David heard this, he sent word to Abigail and asked her to be his wife, and she agreed.
I’m most moved by Abigail’s story because it contradicts a lot of the messages I felt I was taught growing up. As mentioned earlier, I thought my only role in the church was submission. Submission looked like respect, and respect looked like honor, and honor looked like good behavior and not bringing up issues. But I love what Lisa Bevere once said, “God did not save you to tame you.”
Abigail’s boldness and intercession ultimately lead to the greatest amount of peace possible, though initially it did create more chaos. She had to stir up her household to produce gifts, had to rush out of town with servants transporting things, and when she told her husband what she had done, he was far from happy with her. I’m sure he felt very disrespected as it says, “his heart failed him and he became like a stone.” She did a very hard and courageous thing, yet it is credited to her as wisdom that she did. Her boldness and willingness to challenge poor authority saved many lives and ultimately led to her ending up being well taken care of for life after her marriage to David.
The Portrait of a Proper Lady
As women, we can sometimes feel like strong personalities are unbecoming of a proper lady. However, the more I’ve leaned into mine and searched the Bible for examples, the more I realize what a precious gift it is to operate out of the beauty and gentleness that God gives us, along with the intelligence and intuition he often pairs with it. Proverbs 31 describes the “wife of noble character” and includes verses such as, “She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard,” “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days ahead,” and “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.”
The portrait that paints for me is one that absolutely has room for a strong woman. Now, we don’t all have to be CEOs, board members, consultants, or business owners, but it is also 100% awesome if we are and if God leads us down that path. God sometimes puts us in unique places for our “such a time as this” moments. Even Esther had to approach her husband uninvited and risk potential death, very similar to what Abigail did. We as women get to follow the wisdom of Cinderella from the Disney live action movie and, “Have courage, and be kind.”
I want you to take a moment just as I had to do with my perception of my giftings as bad when God ultimately wanted to use them for good Consider what area God is wanting you to step out in boldness in this season? How can you lean into refining your personality and surrender it to God?
FOR FURTHER READING: 1 Samuel 25: 2-42
MEANING BEHIND HER NAME: Abigail means “cause of joy” or “father’s joy” in Hebrew. In the Bible, Abigail is described as a beautiful and intelligent woman.
THEMES IN HER STORY:
Submission isn’t blind. It’s wise. Abigail could have seen her husband as the master who she should never consider undermining; however, she knew that intercession for her husband’s folly was necessary to ensure all of their survival. The Bible doesn’t call for blind submission. It calls us to be wise with who and what we submit to. When someone in authority asks us to do what is wrong, we must listen to the wisdom God has given us to do what is right. Abigail showed great wisdom and did what was right before God by honoring King David.
Right but risky: She didn’t know if it would work or even what David was planning, but she knew that her husband had handled it poorly. And she wanted to make it right despite all the potential risks. For all she knew, David’s party may have murdered her upon her arrival, but she still shows to do what was right. Her instincts and wisdom saved her and many others and gained her favor with David.
Intuition and Intelligence: While Abigail was described as “beautiful”, she was also described as “intelligent”, and we see that take center stage in this story. While our culture can overemphasize external appearances as the source of our feminine power, God also calls us as women to use our intuition and intelligence to honor him.
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