Crystal vases and tin mugs

A while ago we were visiting friends who pastor a rural church.  We sat in on the adult Sunday School class which was having a lively discussion over whether women could teach and minister. This was ironic since the Sunday school teacher was in fact a woman.

This experienced woman had been feeling undermined and asked the young pastor half her age to teach instead.  He wisely refused and supported her instead.

Her arguments for women teaching and ministering in roles other than janitor were well presented.  She remained within the bible and used the bible to refute other interpretations of the bible.

Everyone there seemed quite satisfied with her lesson except one old man who didn’t read anything but the bible and considered himself the patriarch of the community.  That was to be expected and at least he was respectful.

The only other person who disagreed was a young mom.  She was in her 30s, had 6 children, and ran the mixed farm while her husband drove truck.  She also was in charge of dropping off eggs and other farm produce to regular customers.  While watching her children; the youngest at the time was not a year.   She was an accomplished musician and that Sunday she played the music for the church while her two eldest accompanied on violin and voice.  For some reason I think she also homeschooled, but it could just have been that she taught music at her home.

She was terrified of women being anything but a silent support.  I didn’t quite understand this coming from her.  She seemed so capable.

“We can’t just let women have leadership roles,” she quietly murmured after everyone else had spoken.  “What if something bad happens?  What if there is a spiritual attack?  Women are like crystal vases, as Paul says.  Weaker vessels.  Men are like tin mugs.  We need them around to protect us in case boiling water falls!  I just don’t like it, giving women those roles.”

This woman was around 6 feet tall.  Taller than her husband.  Stronger than most of the men in the room.  She was terrified of herself.  Afraid her strength would some how be damaging, when it was clear to everyone in the community that her strength was life-giving.  It was apparent not only in the words she used, but how she tried to hide herself and shyly looked down at the ground.

This is a common fear.  If women are strong, then men will run away and something terrible will happen.  Women are strong enough to destroy men but not strong enough to protect anyone.

Bullshit. I got the impression that she was more scared of herself than she was appreciative of her husband.  Her husband gave no impression of being intimidated by her capabilities.  He looked proud to stand next to her.

I know I’ve talked about this before, but I still find myself trapped in that fear that my strength is not only insufficient, but destructive.  Today I was struggling with fear about painting with bold colours.  With sharing bold words.  With speaking truth in humour.  I wanted to hide, feeling myself a fragile crystal vase about to crack and injure someone with splinters.  Lies.

Neither am I a tin cup, impervious to boiling water or caustic dumps.  I am in between – a clay mug.  Stronger than I think, but still permeable.  Beautiful.  Capable.  Really?

7 thoughts on “Crystal vases and tin mugs

  1. Kirstin says:

    Ah, but you use the word bullshit. 😀 Strength and force in words. I’m teasing, but I’m not. I understand your dilemma, though I am not as strong as you…I find it easy to hide behind my husband, and more recently, my child. And the more I do it, the harder it is to stand up and be an fearless individual. Especially because I am also an introvert by nature.

    • prairienymph says:

      Kirstin, you are more in danger of raising 6 kids while home schooling (or volunteering at a library) and farming than I’ll ever be 🙂
      There are as many types of strength as there are beauty, you don’t have to be the centre of attention to be a positive force.
      You are strong, you are just trying not to be.

  2. If that mom can handle 6 kids on a farm, I’m pretty sure she could handle a little boiling water herself. 🙂

    Your strength is a strength, for sure. When my own strength is destructive, I’ve learned that it usually involves ego. If you don’t use your strength just to prove to others that you have strength, then you’ll probably be just fine. 🙂

  3. Quince says:

    Bold colours for a strong, capable, loving person! 🙂

    • prairienymph says:

      I usually paint with quiet muted watercolours on small scraps of paper. This musing was inspired by a friend telling me to give a try on the large oil she was working on. I thought I had gone overboard and ruined her painting, but then she added some more colour because I had made it too faded. My fear was misplaced.

  4. Lorena says:

    It’s about accepting ourselves just as we are. The woman knows, deep down inside, how powerful she is. But she wishes she were frail and vulnerable, to fulfill the biblical role properly. She is afraid of herself. Are you afraid of yourself? Just wondering.

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