At 11 years of age, her mother sold her to a man who said he would take good care of her. He bought her young brother and sister, as well. He was a trafficker. After using them for a time he sold them into an even more dangerous situation. Soon after, her 9 year-old brother was mauled to death by a circus tiger in front of her. In the midst of her grief and horror she feared there was no way out. But a woman heard of what had happened and so, at some risk to her own life, she rescued the girl and her little sister and gave them a home at her boarding school.
Until rescued, she knew she had no value. She was a girl. In that region of India to be a girl is as much a “life sentence” as a gender. Her lot in life was determined before she was born. She is from a tribal minority; an outcaste. At best, she could look forward to a life of day labor in the tea gardens. At worst, she would be forced into prostitution. By the way, she is brilliant. With no formal education until she was rescued at the age of twelve, she has excelled in her studies. A new life has opened up to her that was unimaginable only a few years ago. Someone stepped in and said no to injustice and a helpless girl was given an entirely different future than corrupt men had planned for her.
There are many girls like her who have not been rescued. In much of the world being a girl is risky business. She might be beaten, sold as a child bride, forced into prostitution, or killed by families that value only sons. Man’s inhumanity to man knows no bounds where scarcity, desperation and immorality meet. There are cultures that see girls as burdens. One Indian saying says, “Having a daughter is like watering someone else’s garden.” In China, when ultrasound became generally available and could be used to identify a baby’s sex in the womb, one man claimed, “Finally, we don’t have to have daughters anymore.”
But there is an older Chinese proverb that says that women hold up half the sky. In their book by that name (Half the Sky), Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn tell us…
“The global statistics on the abuse of girls are numbing. It appears that more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the battles of the twentieth century. More girls are killed in this routine ‘gendercide’ in any one decade than people were slaughtered in all of the genocides of the twentieth century.”
No matter where it takes place in the world, when one person devalues another, we are all devalued. We cannot simply say it is happening far away.
A friend of mine said that he met his wife while studying in Japan. His “postcard –imagination” about marriage to a Japanese girl had her serving him and his children in the most humble and selfless ways. But, as he put it, “God ignored me and instead He gave me a Samurai wife.” He couldn’t be more thrilled. Yes, she has a humble spirit, but she also has the spirit of a warrior, a true companion in all of life’s endeavors.
“It is not good that the man should be alone…” (Genesis 2:18)
When my wife gave birth to our little girl I rejoiced. I treasure her as a gift from God. She is a blessing to my life, as are the many women who have poured their love into me; my wife, mother, grandmothers, daughters-in-law and countless others. God knew what He was doing when He made women! Though many of our Bibles translate the introduction of a woman into the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2) as a helpmeet (or suitable companion), the Samurai description fits much better. In the words of Carolyn James, author of Half the Church, Eve was to be a “companion fit for the tasks God had set before them” – a compliment in every way – a worthy member of a blessed alliance. God intended for them to be an impenetrable fortress of strength and power. With this image-of-God union they were to be fruitful, multiply, rule and subdue the Earth. Together.
Women of the Bible, even in culturally patriarchal contexts, are strong and decisive. They are given center stage in pivotal moments of history; Rahab, Deborah, Jael, Ruth, Abigail, Esther, Mary (all the Marys). They demonstrate character and strength that should encourage both the men and women of God. We need one another. And we know far too much about God’s plan for women to sit idly by while they are treated as subhuman in other parts of the world. It baffles me that educated women in America politically debate free contraception while girls in the majority world are facing utterly inhumane treatment. It should enrage all of us. We have an obligation to set things right in the name of Jesus Christ. And that is not about exporting our culture; it is about restoring all people, men and women, to the image of God.
There is a little school in India about which I have written before, where the girl I mentioned above is now living. It is in a poor community surrounded by the least of the least. The woman who runs it has given her life to raising up girls to their God-given place as image bearers. She is providing them with an education. But more than that, she is giving them Jesus. She and many like her deserve our encouragement, prayers and support. They can’t hold up the sky alone.