Seven women shall take hold of one man on that day, saying,
‘We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes;
just let us be called by your name; take away our disgrace.’ Isaiah 4:1
We all want to be chosen. From kick ball teams on the playground to varsity teams in high school. By college admissions officers and job interviewers. At the Oscars. By Pastor Nominating Committees. We so much want to be picked and it feels – maybe even – disgraceful when we are not. We want to be liked (really liked.) We want to be accepted. We want people to want us.
It feels lousy not be to picked, but there are reasons why some of us are chosen and some are not.
- One pastor is chosen over another because the congregation was looking for something you can’t teach or force. It wasn’t that other candidates were not smart enough or old enough or young enough. (Note: Sadly sometimes it is still about not being male enough or straight enough or white enough, though.) When the Spirit of God is in control, unexpected things happen.
- One actor is chosen over another to win a prize for a multiplicity of reasons that sometimes make sense and sometimes don’t. How do we even try to compare Lupita Nyong’o ‘s Patsy with June Squibb’s Kate? And yet the cliche that “just being nominated is an honor” falls flat.
- Some of us believe that if we can just get a foot in the door, we’ll have a good chance of being chosen. Some of us believe it’s totally “who you know.”
I love this bizarre verse in Isaiah 4 about the seven women vying for one man. There was/is shame in not being selected to be somebody’s partner because it means that we belong when we are selected. In the days when Isaiah was written, it literally meant “belong” to someone. If a woman in those days didn’t belong to a man (her father or her husband) her life had no meaning.
Twenty-first Century Church is all about belonging – but I don’t mean having our names on church rolls or membership cards. (Any pastor will tell you that she’d rather serve a church of 200 members with 180 in worship than serve a church of 2000 members with 180 in worship.)
Belonging today means participating, making a commitment, feeling connected, experiencing community. It’s okay if we don’t get the job/award/position on the team if we feel appreciated and fulfilled in our particular community. This is what church is for: to ensure that we have a community of people who love and accept us in the image of Christ. The world doesn’t always choose us. But God already has.
How are we doing on conveying this truth to others?