I have been spending some time recently looking at some of the questions, recorded in the Holy Book, that women were asked by God. We so often think of God telling us what to do, telling us stories he wants us to think about the meaning of in our own contexts. These things are true. At the same time, I discovered something more: God often asked women questions.
There are a number of things about the questions God asked of women that I am still working through the implications of when I think of both my own live and the ministry that he invites me to participate in. Here are some of my initial thoughts about the questions God asks.
Firstly, so often the questions God asks reveal something more about who he is, about his nature, about his heart for relating to us all. When he asked Sarah why she laughed when he said she would have a child in her old age, it was a question that pointed to the nature of who God is. It reminded her and Abraham that God is the God of the impossible.
Secondly, the questions God asked women often reveal their own brokenness and need. In that first question that he posed to Eve and Adam, ‘Where are you’, he opened the door for Eve to see her own need. That realisation that she was naked, and why, were exposed in this simple, yet profoundly penetrating, question.
Thirdly, God often gives an invitation to women in his questions, an invitation to tell their stories. God knew that Hagar was running away from the abusive situation she had endured when he asked ‘where have you come from and where are you going?’ This question was an opportunity for Hagar to own her story, to give expression to the pain in her heart through telling her story.
Fourthly, questions are often God’s invitation to conversation with him. On the road to Emmaus, when he met the two disciples, one of whom we believe was a woman, and when he asked ‘what are you talking about’, it was an invitation to conversation with him.
Fifthly, transformation is often at the heart of God’s questions to women. I have often felt perplexed, even angry, that Jesus would ask the women who had been bleeding for twelve years. who touched me. However, it was in asking that question that the woman was given an invitation back into the community. The exclusion and marginalisation that had been a part of her life for so many years was transformed by that question that drew her back into the community.
Sixthly, questions give dignity. The Samaritan woman appears to have been marginalised within her community, but then this man at the well says to her, ‘can you give me a drink?’. Despite all the reasons this should not have happened, this question draws this woman into a new place of being, one that became a place of conversation, as well as one of transformation.
Seventhly, an invitation to see and participate in God’s purposes comes with some questions. While Esther’s uncle asks her to consider that she may have come to her present position for such a time as this, I see it as a question from God. With this question God is inviting Esther into a central role in his plan of salvation for his people.
What do our questions invite our friends into? The art of asking good questions is modelled for us throughout scripture. These questions still ring true for me personally today. I continue to work my way through scripture and allow God to take the questions I am finding he asks women, and ask them of me. The context may be different, the outcomes different, this issues different, but God asks questions of me today that come from a loving Father inviting me more deeply into relationship with himself.
Looking at some of the areas where God asked women questions also invites us to consider our conversation with women today, and how God would invite them further with him through the questions. As you think of your conversations with Muslim women think about the questions God asks: inviting them to speak, to articulate their life, their hopes, their pain, their struggles, their brokenness; questions that invite them in from the margins, into conversations with us and with God; questions that become the foundations of transformation because they discover identity and belonging in Almighty God, their loving Father.
Here is the list I am developing of questions God asks, please add to it as you discover more questions.
- ‘Where are you?’ Genesis 3:9
- ‘What have you done?’ Genesis 3:13
- ‘Where have you come from and where are you going?’ Genesis 16:8
- ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say: ‘will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Genesis 18:13
- ‘What’s the matter Hagar?’ Genesis 21:17
- ‘Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?’ Exodus 12:8
- ‘Who are you?’ Ruth 3:9
- ‘Who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?’ Esther 4:14
- ‘Who touched me?’ Luke 8:45
- What are you discussing together?’ Luke 24:17
- ‘Will you give me a drink?’ John 4”7
- Women, why are you crying? Who’s it you are looking for?’ John 20:15
(c) When Women Speak … March 2020
CH spent nearly three decades in South Asia and the Middle East working in education, community development and the Church, and was part of Interserve’s International Leadership for nine years. Her research has included women’s activism and social change in South Asia, violence against women and missiology. She is currently focussed on developing new streams of ministry among women who live under Islam and enabling women academics and practitioners to shape missiology and mission practice. She holds a PhD in Gender Studies (Australian National University).