A couple of months back, a few of my friends and I decided to do a bible study. After discussing ideas and topics, we finally decided to do a book study. I found a book on our overstuffed bookshelf called, The Gospel Centred Woman - Understanding Biblical Womanhood through the Lens of the Gospel by Wendy Alsup. I quickly skimmed through the contents page and decided it had all the topics that we wanted to cover and we decided to start the book. Every page in that book had a truth bomb and I was hooked to the book from the start. In this book, the author talks about how we become manipulators. But before we get to that point, let us look at how we get there.
God created a perfect world. In that perfect world, there was perfect peace and harmony. God created us in His likeness. He created us as male and female, to be his image-bearers on this earth. As women, he created us to be strong helpers, like Him. The word ezer in Hebrew means helper and it is used in the Scriptures on multiple occasions when God comes through and helps the Israelites. For me, this concept itself was a paradigm shift. All along I had thought of helper as a very degrading role. “Oh, I’m just a glorified maid at home. I cook, clean, keep house, take care of the kids, help them with homework, drive them around, take care of my husband's needs. That’s it. I’m ‘just a’ helper.”
These were my thoughts, but when I was reading this book I realised that I am created in the image of God and if I’m created in the image of God then I’m called to reflect His likeness as a strong helper. I’m called to be a conduit of his grace. I’m not just a glorified maid or driver but I’m called to show compassion, to support, defend and comfort those in my care. I am called to be like Christ in my home. I was deeply convicted by this.
So if I’m called to reflect God’s image as a strong helper then why am I not able to? What went wrong? Although God created a perfect world, the fall resulted in the brokenness of both men and women. In God’s perfect creation there was a perfect relationship between humans and God. Our desire was for God alone but as a result of the fall, our desire for God has been marred and broken. We have replaced that desire with our desire for other things - our husbands, family, work, etc.
When we’ve replaced our desire for God with something else, be it a relationship or career then we are expecting that to satisfy us in a way that only God can satisfy. Hence, we resort to manipulating people and situations in our favour to satisfy our desires. Instead of being strong helpers, we resort to becoming artful manipulators.
The book defines the word ‘manipulate’ as - to influence, manage or control to one’s advantage by artful, subtle or indirect means, that is, taking things into our own hands. When we read through Genesis we see some examples of women who manipulated situations in their favour to have their way. Starting from Eve who was created to be a strong helper for Adam. Instead of being a help to Adam, she believed Satan’s lies and manipulated Adam to try the forbidden fruit.
God promised Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation. But in the very next chapter, we see Sarah manipulating him to get her servant pregnant. Rebekah manipulates circumstances at home to make her younger son get the blessing that was intended for the older son. Leah and Rachel manipulate every factor they can to see who can have more sons. Tamar manipulates her father-in-law into thinking that she’s a prostitute so she can have an heir to continue the family line. I’m not saying that in these stories that only the women are to blame or only women resort to manipulating, as fallen people we all resort to manipulating situations and people.
If manipulation means taking matters into my own hands, how does that contrast with trusting God? Am I willing to trust God with my marriage? With my job? My family? Or do I believe that to protect myself I have to take matters into my own hands? What is my desire in life? That I’m willing to manipulate any situation or circumstance to make sure that desire is fulfilled? These were some hard questions I had to ask myself when I was reading that book.
As hard as it is to confess, I must say that I am a manipulator. I never thought of myself as one. I never set out to be one, but invariably I end up being a manipulator one way or the other. I skillfully navigate the situation in my favour. I negotiate, cajole, use sweet and kind words with every intention of having my way.
But going back to Genesis we might feel disheartened looking at these examples of the women I had mentioned. Thankfully the story of these women doesn’t end there. These stories are redeemed by God and so there is hope. These women who might seem like failures and manipulators in our eyes are mentioned in the New Testament not for their failures but as faithful daughters of God, because of God’s redemptive plan.
Tamar who tricked her father in law is one of the three women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus. Sarah is mentioned in Hebrews 11 as a woman of faith. Hebrews 11:11, “By faith, Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age since she considered him faithful who had promised.” In Genesis, we see these women as manipulators yet in the New Testament, we see God honouring them as a result of his transforming power in their lives. That is redemption and that gives me hope because my story doesn’t end as a manipulator. I have hope that God can transform me, a woman who takes matters into my own hands into a woman created in the image of God to be a strong helper in whatever situation I’m placed in.
I have a craving and longing that if I try to satisfy in my own way I will end up being a manipulator. I will face disappointments when I direct that longing or desire to the wrong thing or person. I can only be fully satisfied in Christ. When I’m willing to trust God with my longings and desires he transforms me to be his image bearer, to be a strong helper, to strengthen and support people in my realm of influence.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
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