By Season Fulton
It was one of my very first trips to India. Back when the beeps and barks kept me awake all night. Back when a whiff of cardamom and curry and the stench of rotting cabbage and fish bones sent my head spinning. Walking down the streets of Bombay felt like a dream coming almost too alive, almost more real than anything I’d lived before. Sometimes cruel, sometimes amazing. Always mysterious.
One sight I will never forget came on a longest-of-long day when I was traveling with a friend and pastor from the city. He was meeting up with some other pastors from remote villages, and I was shooting footage of various things on the long journey out of the city. There were several sights that day that struck deep, but the most unexpected was at the home of a sweet family who had invited us to lunch. They were a husband and wife with a young son and a slightly younger daughter. They didn’t speak English, so I was left to observe the scene, smile and nod. The wife took her daughter into the kitchen to prepare the meal while the father and son took us into the dining room where we sat down at the table.
The smells from the kitchen snuck into our noses and where they continued down to everyone else’s stomachs they seemed to detour up to my head and dizzy it. As the wife and little girl set all the dishes before us, I wondered how many days a month they ate like this. Maybe none. My travel companion said a prayer and everyone dug in except for me. I was waiting, as my mother had taught me, for the lady of the house and preparer of the meal to sit at the table and have her first bite. It felt strange that she was nowhere to be found, but I started eating to avoid confusion. A moment later, I spotted her through an open doorway; she was in the kitchen, eating cross-legged on the floor with her daughter.
At first I was confused, and that confusion quickly turned to anger in my heart. This man clearly loved his wife and daughter. I could see it in his eyes, in the way he picked up his little girl and made her laugh. They had joy, this little family. The wife looked up from her spot on the floor and smiled at me, her face and hands covered in red curry like the rest of us. She was honored to have us in her home, to share a fine meal with us, yet her culture hadn’t provided a place of honor for her. All the noise and smells of the big city had faded away in this rustic home, but I felt that I caught a glimpse of an ancient system of discrimination that had buried itself into the culture like a tick into skin, going unnoticed by everyone but me. For all her grins, I still found frustration and sadness in my heart for her. She deserved a place of honor at the table.
As I think about that woman and her daughter sitting on the stone floor, I remember how Jesus treated women. How he served them. How he forgave them. How he defended them. Once, when he was busy teaching in the synagogue, He stopped what he was doing to heal a woman whose back was bent over because an “evil spirit” oppressed her. (Luke 13:10-17) For years she had been facing the floor, unable to even lift up her head. Jesus sees her across the room and says, “Woman, you are free!” With that, she stands up straight and praises God. The Pharisees go on to scold Jesus for healing on the Sabbath, which was against the old law, but Jesus was ushering in a new law, the law of Grace. And He didn’t just teach this Law of Grace, He acted on it at the expense of His reputation.
To our shame, many women around the world are still oppressed, physically and spiritually, by unrighteous customs, unfair laws, and social norms that cause behavior towards women that break their spirits and bow their heads low.
The Law of Grace demands our action. Like Jesus, I hope we notice the mistreated around us and choose to intervene on their behalf, to shake off their oppressors and in doing so, teach them what great worth they bear as women, and that there is a place for them at the table.
It is an honor to serve them by providing water wells that allow girls to attend school in their villages, providing free education to both boys and little girls born into slums so that they are able to continue their education as they get older. It is our honor to work with and rescue women of all ages from being enslaved against their will in red light districts and brothels.
Will you join us as we serve and strive to inspire others to value and support every wife, mother, sister and daughter, regardless of social or cultural circumstance?
Our message to women is an echo of Christ’s message to the bent woman that day in the synagogue. “Women, you are free!”