Elizabeth Oates: Walking Clichés
Guest Blog Post by Elizabeth Oates
Let’s be honest, summer is waning. I have dragged my three children to every free or cheap entertainment hot spot Waco has to offer: the Mayborn museum, the library, Cameron Park, the zoo, Sonic happy hour . . . the list goes on. In fact, I am such a frequent visitor at Hawaiian Falls that they actually started following me on Instagram, reposted one of my pictures, and tagged me in it. That is the highlight of my summer. Lord, help me.
I know what people see when they look at me: a soccer mom who married her college sweetheart, drives a minivan filled with a gaggle of kids, and lives in the suburbs lined with perfectly manicured lawns. I’m so cliché even I want to vomit. And this Hawaiian Falls photo isn’t helping my street cred.
I am pretty sure I know what people think about me, too: “She has it all together. Her life is perfect. Everything comes so easily for her.”
Yet, on the inside, I am far from my walking, talking stereotype. And nothing in my life is as perfect as it seems.
You see, I grew up the product of a broken home. Not once, not twice, but three times I watched my mom marry and divorce. Every aunt, uncle, and grandparent I knew was divorced. My life growing up was unpredictable and chaotic to say the least.
My dad was broken too. Drugs and alcohol were more important than marriage and children. And so he left, long before I realized disappearing acts weren’t a normal dad thing to do. He made his choice.
I know the statistics for kids like me. I’m guessing you do too. Children from divorced families are more likely to:
- suffer from depression than children from intact homes
- commit suicide than children from intact homes
- have health problems than children from intact homes
- engage in sexual activity at a younger age
- use drugs and alcohol at a young age
- end up homeless or in prison
- drop out of high school
And who can blame us? The very people who gave us life rejected us. Why wouldn’t we reject ourselves?
The irony in all of this is that I have spent most of my adult years trying to overcome the 1980’s-latchkey-kid-from-a-broken-home-cliché by creating this new soccer-mom-in-the-burbs-cliché. Both are equally irritating and shallow because neither reflects my soul.
And that is the problem with clichés. They don’t define us. They simply attach incorrect labels.
So what do we do in a world that loves to define and confine people? We turn to a Savior who longs and loves to redefine His people and set us free.
Rahab the Harlot
In the book of Joshua we meet another living, breathing cliché named Rahab. Rahab was a prostitute, a common profession in her day. She lived alone, apart from her family, unusual for a single woman in those times. Her home was positioned in the town so that the townspeople could see her customers come and go throughout the day. Women snickered, men gazed longingly, and mothers covered their children’s eyes.
Have we ever paused to consider what led Rahab into this revolving door of men?
- Was she preyed upon by a family member as a child that led to feelings of shame and self-loathing?
- Was she chasing a rebellious spirit?
- Was she promised money too good to pass up in hopes of providing a better life for herself and her family?
Scripture doesn’t tell us her background. But it does tell us that in the midst of her rebellion, God intervenes. He gives Rahab the chance to play a part in His story . . . and to live beyond her cliché.
Then Joshua, the son of Nun, secretly sent two spies from Shittim to the western side of the Jordan. Joshua: “Go in, and see what you can find out about the people in that area. Pay special attention to the city of Jericho.” The men crossed the river, and when they entered Jericho, they stayed at the home of a prostitute named Rahab. (Joshua 2:1-2, The Voice)
When the king of Jericho finds out there are spies in his land, he sends his men to question Rahab. She quickly hides the spies on her rooftop. She stands at a figurative crossroads: show loyalty to her country by turning in the spies, or show loyalty to a God she barely knows by lying to her government and hiding the spies. What will she do?
“The king commands you to turn over the Israelite men who are staying with you because they are here to spy on all the land and its defenses. But Rahab had already hidden the two spies before she received the king’s messengers.
Rahab: “It’s true that two men have been to see me. But I didn’t take the time to ask them where they came from. All I know is that when it was getting dark outside and the gate was about to close, they got up and left. I don’t know where they went from here. If you hurry, you might still catch up to them.”
She was lying, because the two men lay where she had hidden them beneath the stalks of flax laid out on her roof. (Joshua 2:3b-6, The Voice)
Rahab has made her choice.
Through geneology we learn that Rahab later marries Salmon . . . one of the spies she hides. That’s a love story better than The Notebook!
- Rahab then gives birth to Boaz
- who later marries Ruth
- who gives birth to Obed
- whose wife gives birth to Jesse
- who is the father of David
- through whose line Jesus was born.
The world defined Rahab: a harlot, a prostitute. God redefined her: a trustworthy, honest, intelligent, risk-taking woman.
The world confined her: she serviced men all day and night in her little house and would continue to do so until the day she died. God changed her story and set her free.
She became a participant in the lineage of Jesus. The fact that Jesus came from a prostitute teaches us that He came to earth to save us all—the messy, the ugly, the slaves, the hookers, the broken, the drug users, the depressed, the heartbroken, the shallow, the misunderstood, the selfish, the church people, and the lonely. He did not come just for the neat and tidy people, if they even exist.
On hearing this, Jesus said to them,
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Mark 2:17, NIV
Who in your life is God calling you to see . . . beyond the cliché? Perhaps God is asking you to dig deeper, to see someone as He sees her. I challenge you to pray about the Rahab in your world.
- Who is she?
- How can you connect with her?
- Reach out to her?
- Love her?
Maybe you identify with Rahab. Maybe you feel like a cliché, misunderstood by the world, by your family, by the church. Everyone sees you as one thing, yet deep inside you know you are so much more.
- What steps can you take to move beyond your cliché?
- What steps can you take to grow in deeper relationship with Jesus?