Tuesday, January 17, 2017

What is Your Name?

Cain’s wife is the first unnamed female in the Bible, but certainly not the last. She serves as the mother and wife, not a person so much as a role. She is grudgingly given credit for existing, because Cain could not procreate alone. Even in myths, women are often nameless.

Eve is the first named woman in the Bible. Adah and Zillah, the wives of Cain’s great-great-great grandson Methushael, are the very next named women. Adah mothered the nomadic cattle herders and the musicians. Zillah mothered the toolmakers. These women are named. They must have been important.

What does it take to get a name in the Bible, as a woman? Eve was the mother of everyone. Adah was the mother of music and livestock management. Zillah was the mother of toolmaking. These seminal women were essential.

How often we women are defined by our offspring. When my daughter was born, a friend of mine told me I would quickly become “Torismom.” I laughed at the time, but it is very true. The children at my daughter’s preschool see me and call out, “It’s Torismom!” I am a role – I am a mother, an Eve. I do not exist for these gorgeous young creatures as a human with independent thoughts or motivations. I am Mom. As they grow older and more mature, as they talk to me more, they will learn that I am a person. But in an essential way, I will always be a mom to them all, including my own daughter. At school functions and parties, I introduce myself as “Tori’s mom.” And other moms and dads join in: “Naveen’s dad,” “Penny’s mom,” “Emmaline’s mom,” “Jeddy’s dad.”

Part of me realizes that Tori is my greatest achievement. Or at least one of my greatest achievements. By cultural standards, she is my greatest achievement – because she will extend my influence in the world by (hopefully) outliving me. By my own personal standards, she is one of my greatest. Whenever I love another person, whenever I encourage anyone, whenever I pray for anyone, I create a great achievement. And Tori is one of those.

I used to dream of greatness. I used to dream about the books I would write, or the seminars I would fill, or the fame I would achieve. I used to think of the great and amazing things I could do: end world hunger, bring clean drinking water everywhere, end rape. I’m 41 years old now, and my dreams are greater and yet smaller. I dream of loving everyone perfectly. I dream of praying constantly. I dream of bringing light into the life of everyone I touch. Motherhood is a natural extension of that.

My husband and I don’t want Tori to be a famous prodigy. We don’t want her to be President. We want her to be a good citizen: a net gain for society. We want her to be happy. We want her to spread God’s kingdom.

In the patriarchal world, being a mother left little time for anything else. Is this why women are only known by their offspring?

But in today’s world, women can achieve AND mother. We can all be Deborahs, known for our motherhood and our personal accomplishments. I didn't trade one name for another: I gained a name. I am Elaine Bayless and I am Torismom.

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