Each January brings with it the impetus to create new resolutions: desires, intentions, hopes of doing something new or different, or better yet, becoming someone new or different. At a New Year’s Eve party this year I was impressed by the various things people wanted to accomplish. One person said he hoped to listen to more music this year. Now, count me in on something like that! I’ve already determined this gives me good reason to buy Philip Phillips’ album.
Likewise, our Complementarian friend, John Piper, has suggested at the turn of this New Year 10 things to pray for your wife. As a wife, I figure this will be an excellent way for me to embrace being the woman my man desires. So, you can imagine how quickly I printed his list and promptly left it on my husband’s night stand so that he can implement these prayers immediately.
Because, you see, I’m thrilled that John Piper’s number one prayer for wives is that God would be a jealous object of all my affections. It’s so helpful, I think, when someone else’s image of God is assumed to be the very one that is meaningful and inspiring for everyone. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is why there is only one legitimate image of God in the Bible—that of Father, in case you were wondering—and that all of the multiple names and ways in which God is portrayed really are consolidated in one primary understanding.
Besides, when we elevate one way to understand God above all other ones, it helps us eliminate nuance and all the messy stuff that might otherwise be involved if we were really seeking to understand the mystery of the Sacred.
So, in Piper’s world—and indeed all those who subscribe to a one-image God—there’s no need of course to explore context or culture or even personal experience. I mean, for Hagar to meet God in the desert and to name God as “the one who sees” (El Roi) it doesn’t speak at all to her experience as a slave and ethnic outsider who had failed to be seen by the great paragons of faith: Abraham and Sarah.
And, thankfully, most of the Bible’s translators (who have been men) have helped us narrow our images of God, keeping them more masculine, of course, because it just gets increasingly messy and disorienting if we take too seriously God’s multi-faceted self. Who would think twice, really, about the inconsequential differences of translating the divine name El Shaddai as “God Almighty” or the equally appropriate, “many-breasted one.” Essentially the same, you see.
And I, for one, am immensely thrilled to note that, according to Piper’s top ten prayers for women, my increased faith depends upon God’s power. I need this prayer because admittedly it’s my inferior gender that prompts me to wrongly value God’s sustaining presence more than a masculine preference for power—and correspondingly—control. Truthfully, God will need to help me a great deal to come to see God as Piper assumes I need to. Good thing I will have my man praying diligently on this one.
Not to be overlooked in his top ten list, Piper thinks wives should be able to see a few things men might overlook (prayer 7) as long as we recognize that our ability to perceive these things is also accompanied by the feminine quality of a gentle, quiet spirit (in other words, make sure you don’t tell men about what you’ve seen that they haven’t!). I imagine this answered prayer goes something like this: Bryan, I noticed you failed to see how you left your dishes on the counter again instead of loading them in the dishwasher. I hope you understand how much I value your time and simply ask you to prayerfully consider that I am busy as well and perhaps find a few moments to load them yourself next time.
Oh, wait: no, that won’t do, in Piper’s world I am made to load the dishwasher with loving adoration of my husband who assumes dishes move themselves from one place to another getting cleaned in the process.
I have no idea how effective Bryan’s prayers will be in enabling me to see the Bible as God’s words to me (another one of Piper’s top ten prayers for wives) since I’m pretty sure none of the biblical writers had any idea that what they put on papyrus was directed to someone living several thousand years later in a completely different place. But who knows, this is probably just my female sin seeping through and infecting my perception.
On the other hand, if John Piper really wanted to take women and God seriously in the New Year, he could start by listening, especially to those outside of his circle of influence. I think what he might hear would not only surprise him, it would challenge his assumptions.
At least I know this to be true: I learn the most when I take seriously those who think differently than I do and from those whose life experiences are dissimilar from my own. Of course I’m saying this in the most feminine way possible.