One of the tragedies of our world is the distortion of the female identity (Genesis 3:16 refers to this as part of the consequence of the fall). Part of the restoration of the gospel is for women to discover who they were made to be, to experience and then respond to the God of the Bible. We see this intent in the whole Bible from Genesis 1-3 through to Revelation 21-22.
Throughout salvation history, as revealed in the Bible, God reveals himself to people within in their culture and felt needs. God begins with our felt needs and current circumstances and reveals Himself to us in a way that is relevant to us. So, I listen to my Muslim background friends and pray, and then I try to share God into their current situations and felt needs. Early on in our time together we explore and discuss Genesis 1 & 2. Through our discussion I highlight the parts which connect into her felt need which usually has to do with her identity as a woman. Just as Genesis 1:27, 31, 2:18, 24, 25 have meant a lot to me they have also meant a lot to the women I have shared them with. One woman, who struggles with self esteem as a result of continual sustained verbal family abuse, was moved to tears when we first discussed God’s view of her as shown in Genesis 1 and 2. When she was baptised I gave her a set of laminated Bible verses reminding her of who she is as a follower of Jesus.
We need to be praying about God’s intention for our sisters in their family and community. We need to reflect on what we can discuss and pray about that will enable our sisters to be shining lights in their communities (Matthew 5:16). Ideally that is exploring the Bible with her immediate community, sadly however, it may mean keeping her faith private for awhile so that her family can see that she is becoming the daughter they hoped for or the wife or mother they wanted. The good news of Jesus can sometimes be more easily understood when the words explaining the reason for the change follow the transformation. A mother, who because of her growing faith in God, begins to become less controlling of her adult children is a powerful testimony to the power of God in her life. A wife who begins to do things out of love and not out of fear, jealousy or anger is also a powerful testimony.
Just as in my life it takes time for these changes, it will also take time for our new sisters in Christ. So, let’s be patient, gracious and gentle, while giving them time and space for the Holy Spirit to be working that out in their lives and hopefully with others who are from their family.
Think about some of the women you know from a Muslim background. Pray about them and ask God to give you some ideas of what their identity is and what it could be. Pray about these. What are some things you could ask your friends about to help you pray more specifically for them?
I have a Muslim background not yet Christian friend who has been divorced several times and now no longer wants to get married, however, being a mother is so important to her identity and purpose that she is now trying to have a baby outside of marriage. I have shared the story of Tamar (Genesis 38) because I find that the story of Tamar reminds me that God understands when women end up doing things they don’t really want to do in order to survive in a world where the men have not upheld their responsibilities.
Another married friend shared with me about how her husband, whom she is dependent on for most of her interactions outside the home, was angry with her and not talking to her. I shared with her the story of Hagar in Genesis 16 who was cast aside by those who were responsible for her, yet the angel of the Lord found her and then Hagar describes God as the one who ‘sees’ her, provides for her and blesses her so that her identity is transformed. Another time we were chatting about whether God hears our prayers, so I shared with her the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel chapter 1 who year in year out visited the temple pouring out her soul to the LORD. Hannah is a woman who engages God in the depths of her despair and is then transformed by God so that her identity becomes one who is blessed.
When a friend’s husband, who was desperate to pass his PhD, asked me if I believed reciting the names of Allah and praying and fasting during Ramadan really cause Allah to bless one. I shared the story of the 2 sons in Luke 15 and said I believed in a relationship with a heavenly Father and that for me prayer was an expression of my dependence on God as someone who accepted his invitation of relationship. My friend and I had chatted about this story several times, that day was the time for her husband to hear it.
The story of Ruth is a powerful example of trusting God and joining God’s people which I shared with a friend who was fearful of what might happen if her husband found us reading the Bible. Ruth is a widow who chooses to identify herself with God’s people, this results in her initially living on the margins of society but as she begins to reinvent her identity she finds God providing and transforming her identity and place of belonging.
What parts of Scripture could you explore that relate to where your Muslim sisters are at? Practice telling those stories in your host language and pray for an opportunity to discuss it.
For further reflection go to https://whenwomenspeak.net/blog/renegotiating-identity/
 These verses highlight that we are made in the image of God (Gen 1:27; Ps 139:13,14), loved by God (Deut 7:7-8; 10:15; Ps 145:13-20; Jer 31:3; John 3:16; Rom 8:35-39; Eph 2:4-5; 1 John 4:9-10), adopted (Eph 1:3-5) to be children of God (John 1:12; 2 Cor 6:18; Gal 3:26, 4:7; Eph 2:19), eternally heirs (1 Cor 6:11; Phil 3:20; Rev 21:7), holy saints (Heb 10:10; Rev 3:5) who are precious (Isaiah 43:4) and priceless to God (Psalm 49:7,8).
(c) When Women Speak… April 2022