What’s “Biblical” About It?

Whenever I see the word “Biblical” in front of a title or a statement I pause as anyone should who cares about what the Bible really does or does not say. 

Recently this word caught my eye:  a local Evangelical church, a church of great size, advertised a Biblical Masculinity and Femininity Conference.  I thought this rather odd since the Bible does not tell men how to behave as men or women how to behave as women.  I thought that stereotyping had gone out with analogical thinking (if a, then b follows).

 Regarding male and female behavior I’ve come to the conclusion that masculinity and femininity are social contrivances or social regulators which help us navigate our relationships.  Again, the Bible does not tell men how to behave like a man or a woman how to behave like a woman.  The Bible does tell us in very simple general statements how we as men and women are to relate to the opposite sex and to each other.  The Bible also provides us with examples of what men find attractive in a woman (e.g., the Shulammite woman of The Song of Solomon & the industrious woman in Proverbs 31) and what women find attractive in men (the Ruth/Boaz story). Masculine or feminine qualities, if there are such things, are worked out between each man and woman in the give and take of relationship. They certainly are not the rubber stamping of contrived gender roles promoted by such Conferences.

 Without a whole lot of fanfare the Bible commands men to love their wives and women to respect their husbands. Beyond this the Bible only gives us some storied examples of men and women in action. Masculinity and femininity if Biblically revealed at all is the plain and simple romantic dance of the male and female psyches within the narrative of relationship.  As mentioned above we can see this dance in the lives of the Bible’s men and women.  Another example:  the love story of Jacob and Rachel.

 So, the impetus of this post is to hopefully negate the misinformation doled out by those who feel the need to conform everyone to certain gender defined roles and who also seek to make others abide by the same gender templates, templates created extra-Biblically and more decidedly culturally derived. Hopefully, I can set the record straight.  You decide.

 Raised in a Baptist/Evangelical church I understand that the word “Biblical” connotes a God-given standard that you are expected to honor, to follow and to conform to. Over the years, though, I have had to disentangle my understanding of what the Bible really says from the “Biblical” fishing nets tossed out by commercial fishers-of-men who believe they have captured what the Bible says and then can sell it back to you in the market place of ideas as truth.

 Let’s look at one of their “marketable Biblical items”.  A common passage of Scripture used to define Biblical Womanhood is Proverbs 31

In this passage the writer Lemuel or Anonymous describes the attributes he likes in a woman.  Proverbs 31 is the writer’s description of what he thinks is noble character for a woman.  Now, if women want to aspire to these same traits they may find similar recognition. The word “Biblical”, though, as in “Proverbs 31 is an example of Biblical Womanhood” often implies a kind of warrant of a personal guarantee of outcome (if a, then b follows). If you do these same things then you are Biblically feminine.  But is that true?

 The industrious “woman” in Proverbs 31 works to fulfill the needs of her family as do men.  But, as you know, men and women do different things to maintain the household and will often overlap in the household duties required.  Does the example of this woman’s qualities and behavior mean Biblical femininity? If you as a woman do not do all the things listed in Proverbs 31 are you less feminine? Or, if a man did the same things is he being feminine? Or worse, are you being less Biblical if you are not matching up to these same traits?  I hope you can see where this type of “Biblical womanhood” typecasting leads.

 In the Song of Solomon, a lyric poem in dialogue form, King Solomon describes marked physical attributes of the woman he loves. Is what he describing Biblical femininity? Or, is what he describing what he likes about the woman he loves, the Shulammite?

 Now most Christian scholars, most trusted Christian scholars, would tell you that the biblical canon is closed – there is no further written revelation from God. Yet, we are told that there is Biblical Masculinity and Biblical Femininity – a continuum of a more codified and concise version of the Bible which informs us as to how a twenty-first century man or woman behaves. To me, though, this extra-biblical and apocryphal “decoded” addition of Scripture’s text sounds a lot more like a Pharisee’s laundry list of dos and don’ts than the Bible’s simple and direct statements:  “Husband love your wives. Wives see to it that you respect your husbands.”

 The church conference I am talking about was directed at the youth – junior and senior high school kids.  I have no doubt that the parents are concerned about what the LGBT community is doing to affect gender “norms” in the local public schools.  To be sure the LGBT community is misguided and has no concern whatsoever about what God says.  I, like these parents, am concerned about the LGBT lies and the nonsense being promulgated in our schools as normative. At the same time I do not want the church to overreact to the same degree by narrowly defining gender into masculine and feminine stereotypes, supplying false “Biblical” alternatives to the LGBT community’s errors.

 Gender confusion has become an issue recently because of the LGB community.  It is the members of the LGB community who want to take control of masculinity and femininity in order to receivec acceptance and codification of their behavior. They seek to use homosexuality as a subsitute for what God had created as good – a male and female relationship.  The LGB community depises the Christian community for wanting to maintain what God created.  Homosexuality, the centerpiece of the LGB community then is the ego’s defiance of God and stands in direct contrast to what God created and said was good – a male and female relationship. Hence, gender confusion, anger and pride exists wherever the LGB community is. For most people, though, gender confusion does not exist apart from the false narratives promoted by the LGB community.

Gender dysphoria, though,  does exist in some individuals and should be met with differently than the individual simple searching for culturally accepted masculinity or femininity.

 For most people gender confusion is not an issue.  The searching for where you fit in comes and goes naturally during youth.  The rub usually comes from culture.  Scripture has nothing to say about it even though people create sermons and seminars about it.  During this adapting process  we as parents need to know what the LGBT community is saying about gender and then discount any of their false notions about gender along with false “Biblical” ones. The individual will eventually define him or herself by their sexed body and will respond according to what those around them are telling them about their gender.

The parents who are very concerned about the LGBT community’s activism should be careful to not define masculine and feminine as having “Biblical” attributes and as exsiting apart from relationship with the opposite gender.  Masculine and feminine are culturally defined romantic notions of male and female attributes within relationship. The Bible has only a few things to say specifically about man’s behavior or a woman’s behavior and it is in the context of relationships.

In the beginning God saw that it was not good for man to be alone so God created woman and human relationship.  Within that relationship God let men and women work out their masculine and feminine qualities. God did not prescribe what masculinity and femininity meant before or after the fall.  God only mentioned pragmatic matters:  what men and women will do as a result of their fall and what relationships they should absolutely stay away from.

As a result of Adam and Eve’s fall God said that men would work hard to make a living from the earth and that women will labor hard to give birth to a child.  And later, in the Old Testament book of Leviticus, God provided some practical laws or boundaries regarding men and women and their physical relationships.  These Levitical issues in particular dealt with the exchange of bodily fluids (do not commit incest or homosexuality or bestiality, avoid sex during a woman’s menstrual flow, etc.).  In the New Testament the Apostle Paul, in a strongly worded letter to the members of the church in Corinth, told them to “Flee from sexual immorality.  All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body…your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit…”  What defiles (and confuses) your personhood and the context for working out “masculinity” or “femininity”  are sinful relationships which quench the Spirit.

Now can one boy be more masculine than another?  No.  (Now, you may think that a boy who hangs around with his mother is more feminine than a boy who hangs around with his father.  In reality, each boy is sharing things they enjoy in common with the respective parent. Should it be demanded of the boy to act more like his father? Culture might demand it but Scripture doesn’t. The answer is No.) I would have little doubt that shaming a child into submitting to a gender stereotype is part of the personality pathology of homosexuality. 

Parent’s desirous of fitting their kids into society’s norms and into their own idealization of gender will restrict a child to a certain prescribed behavior and manner of presentation.  This need to conform their child to a certain delineation of a gender role may lead to post traumatic stress disorder in the child. (See this recent article:  Gender nonconformity linked to child abuse:  Uncomfortable adults often compel strict role presentation)

 A boy is more masculine than a girl,  of course. Just as in the garden of Eden before Eve came along, masculine and feminine were meaningless terms (The conference gods will strike me down, now.) They were meaningless until Eve stood in contrast to Eve as a separate gender.    Masculinity and femininity basically are the features in the opposite sex that we are attracted to.  This sounds rather unspiritual, too down to earth, but is what God had intended  – the simple elemental attraction of opposites.

 Within a male and female relationship you are drawn to the other gender.  You are attracted to gender-derived differences, to those features that are reciprocal (the roller-skate-and-key principle, if you will).  I realize that this may sound more like fuzzy math, more like the probability nature of quantum physics and not at all like rock-solid classical Newtonian physics that people more readily grasp but solid marriages prove the point.  An example would be my parents.

My parents have been married for over 60 years.  To my knowledge there has never been any talk between my mother and father about who was masculine and who was feminine.  They simply followed Christ and let gender find its way within in the context of their relationship to each other and to Christ.  They attended no seminars about “Biblical Masculinity or Biblical Femininity.”

Now regarding binary gender, the analogy may apply:  men are from Mars and women are from Venus.  As two distinct sexes we relate to each other differently, the differences being derived from basic biology (physical sexed body and hormonal) and cultural adaptations. Beyond this, there are no such things as the True Masculine or the True Feminine

 In fact, when we elevate certain aspects or attributes of men or women that we perceive to be quality masculine or feminine specimens to the position of the “True Masculine” or the True Feminine” we make idols of man-made aspirations (and, perhaps,  of Freudian psychology).  The church, as shown by the conference ad, wants to package masculinity and femininity and resell certain accepted features of it as “Biblical”.  They will even supersize the issue with book sales, heated sermons and biopic posts giving us what they see as the jot and tittle of masculine and feminine as viewed through their myopic lense of socially acceptable Biblical “truth.”

Concerning this topic, the book Exclusion and Embrace by Miroslav Volf was of special interest to me, especially the chapter titled Gender Identity. The primary focus of the chapter as I read it was to rightly describe the basis of gender identity and to show how the ideas about masculinity and femininity, described in “essence” forms, are often used to exclusion rather than embrace of the other.

 In this chapter Miroslav Volf says regarding his argument about gender identity:  “I have claimed that (1) the content of gender identity is rooted in the sexed body and negotiated in the social exchange between men and women within a given cultural context, and that (2) the portrayals of God in no way provide models of what it means to be male or female. I suggested, instead, that the relations between the Trinitarian persons serve as a model for how the content of “masculinity” and “femininity” ought to be negotiated in the social process.” (emphasis mine)

 He further states neutrally:

 “The content of gender identity is left unspecified; anything seems to go.”

 Also:

 “Biblical “woman” and “manhood” – if there are such things at all, given the diversity of male and female characters and roles that we encounter in the Bible – are not divinely sanctioned models but culturally situated examples.” (emphasis mine)

 And:

 “If neither models of God nor the explicit statements of the Bible about femininity and masculinity are normative for the content of gender identities, what is?  Does anything really go?  My proposal is that we locate the normativity in the formal features of identity and the character of relations of divine person. Instead of setting up ideals of femininity and masculinity, we should root each in the sexed body and let the social construction of gender play itself out guided by the vision of the identity of and relations between divine persons. What is normative is not some ‘essence” of femininity and masculinity, but the procedures, modeled on the life of the triune God, through which women and men in specific cultural settings should negotiate.” (emphasis mine)

 Further thoughts from the chapter:

  •  Father figure imagery has become sacrosanct in Christian circles.
  •  Psychology attempts to use the father figure imagery to decipher…
  •  Freud: we create god as a need for a father figure or oedipal complex
  •  Man’s projection of a father figure into the heavens due to an oedipal complex

If you as a man or you as a woman want to be all that you can be (to borrow an advertising phrase from the Army) then be in relationship with Christ.  Period. Don’t fashion your life around the drivel described as “Biblical” masculinity and femininity.  Put on Christ and walk in the Spirit instead. (I realize that many people want self-help books, tweets and conferences to tell them what to think.  Forget these things. Put on Christ and get walking.)

Now, you can always parse or stretch Scripture to make it mean what you want to say regarding masculine and feminine attributes.  Instead,  it would be better to not focus on these things, on whether you or someone else is more or less masculine or feminine. The Evil One will always stir up comparisons.  Just look at the media and you can, hopefully, see that the Evil One’s world view is one of comparing yourself to celebs, to physical attributes, to images of macho men and sexy babes,  to myriads of false idols. Walk in the Spirit and you will not fill up the flesh with a pretense of the masculine or feminine.

 And by far the best antidote to the cloying gender confusion issue that the LGB community brings with it is the solid mutually beneficial relationship of a man and a woman.  The spectrums of masculine and feminine can be fully explored within a committed relationship. In such a relationship there should be no threat to your perceived masculinity or femininity.  These things just co-exist.  And as such, the two will become one with no thought or time given to someone’s canonized version of “Biblical Masculinity or Femininity.”

She Loved Much

The Gospel reading yesterday came from The Gospel According to Luke:

Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
      “Tell me, teacher,” he said.

 “Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”
      “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”

 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

 

*****

I have shed many tears during my life – tears of repentance, tears of joy, tears of great sorrow and tears of great loss…

 

She Loved Much

Surrounded by those who judge me… at a dinner party given for Jesus…

Tears pour from my alabaster heart,

Onto Your Holy earth-born feet, my kisses removing the clay, the dust;

The earthy/musty scent of my adoration-

The pure nard of my love for You-

Captures the room, pushing fear from my senses,

Permeating the place where You are,

The Place I want to be.

May my love for You, O Holy One of God,

Bring You great joy as You dine among the white-washed tombs.

“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

© Sally Paradise, 2010, All Rights Reserved

*****

“What I believe about God is the most important thing about me.”  A.W. Tozer

Father’s Day 1985

Riyadh_Skyline_NewFather’s Day 1985. I have good reason to remember that day: I was in Saudi Arabia when I called my father to wish him “Happy Father’s Day!” It was 9:30 pm Jubail time and about 9:30am in Chicago on that Sunday when I placed the call to my father. I had traveled to Saudi Arabia as an engineer/tech to start up some equipment that our company had sold to a Texas pipeline company. This new equipment would help Saudi Arabia pipe Saudi oil to waiting oil tankers on the Persian Gulf. I happened to arrive during the Saudi Islamic spiritual observance known as Ramadan. It was time of fasting, intense heat and scorched ground. It was the beginning of June and I thought I would be home by Father’s Day.

My journey to this Middle Eastern country was a long passage of connecting airline flights starting from Chicago. First I flew to Kennedy airport in New York and lay over there for several hours. Then I flew to Amsterdam and lay over there for several hours. Then I flew to the Dhaharan International Airport on the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia. I arrived about 12:30 am. Our plane was greeted by short (they all seemed short to me) khaki uniformed Saudi soldiers who searched each passenger’s luggage for social and spiritual contraband, things like glamour magazines, Bibles, etc. (I had already learned that Christians were persecuted in Saudi Arabia). After going into customs, being questioned about where I was staying (I didn’t know) and where I was working (I gave them a business card that said, “BREDERO PRICE MIDDLE EAST LTD”. They understood immediately.), then finally having my passport stamped, it was 2:00 in the morning. I walked towards the front door of the airport with my small suitcase and saw a placard being waved with my name written on it. I was relieved and scared at the same time since I understood no Arabic and I couldn’t read any of the airport signs.  I could only read my name bouncing up and down. The man waving the card greeted me in his language, said something else I didn’t understand and then waved me over to his car, a 1980 Mercedes Benz 380SL, parked at the curb.

I loaded my small suitcase into the trunk of his car and then he had me sit in the back seat. He proceeded to drive almost sightlessly through the desert at 140km/hr (about 86 mph). The two headlights hardly made an impact on the night. Blowing sand and dust filled our vision on the road before us. I saw other cars when they passed beside us and sometimes I saw camel legs. I prayed to arrive safely to wherever we might be going. A hotel, soon, I hoped. I didn’t know what the driver was told to do with me.

We finally arrived at a hotel, a Sheraton Hotel, in Jubail, Saudi Arabia. Jubail is an industrialized city on the east coast of Saudi Arabia near the Persian Gulf. During the day, one could see petrochemical plants rising out of the floating desert heat. At night, one could see the glowing gold light of the petrochemical plants and black spouts with fire shooting upwards, fires that burned off excess oil. The rising smoke created carbon black pillars in the Saudi twilight.

Inside the hotel there was more lack of communication between me and the driver and me and the hotel keeper. I was given a key to a room. I felt slightly better. I found my way upstairs and then found my room. The room looked at lot like other western hotel rooms except for the bidet in the bathroom. I turned on the TV. On several channels people were shown praying in Mecca and others making their pilgrimage to Mecca. I learned, later that day, that it was Ramadan. Another channel had a British news service. I found an American channel that played Andy of Mayberry and I Dream of Jeannie reruns 24/7. It was a TV oasis of back home sitcoms. I set the alarm for six o’clock in the morning. Two hours of sleep is all I that I would get that night.

In the morning I found the hotel restaurant near the lobby downstairs. Because of Ramadan, the Muslims were fasting during the daylight hours, from dawn to sunset, so the restaurant was empty except for me. I ordered black coffee and Swiss muesli. This was my daily breakfast the entire time I spent in Saudi Arabia. As I was reading the menu, someone approached me, a foreigner, and said in English, “When you are done with your breakfast I will drive you to the work site.” The English words were comforting. I had pointed out my food selections to the waiter and he hurried back with the coffee. I felt dog tired with only two hours of sleep. I was still on my Chicago time clock. I should be getting ready for dinner and then for bed. I finished breakfast and signed the check over to my room number. Someone was paying the bill but I didn’t know who.

I met my driver outside the hotel and he scurried me off to the work site several miles away. I was informed of the ‘rules’ of Saudi life and was basically told to stay in the car, stay in my hotel and stay at the work site. I had decided to dress and to appear as a male so that I wouldn’t receive many looks along the way, except, I believed, for my Swedish light skin and my short reddish-blond hair. I wore a baseball cap. As we drove, I saw Bedouin shepherds moving their sheep across the highways, highways populated with tall palm trees. We arrived at the work site, a collection of construction trailers and low open buildings, many with corrugated roofs and no walls, out in the barren sand field. The only shade was beneath the wavy silver roofs which deflected the sun.

I met with the site foreman and the rest of the crew. The foreman’s name was Rusty. He was from Ireland. The crew made up of all males, were from various parts of the world. There were several Australians, some Danes, one Austrian, some Germans, some Filipinos, some Brazilians and several Brits. They had come to Saudi Arabia to earn a lifetime of money in just a few short years of work. The oil company paid a high wage for foreign workers with good pipefitting/mechanical experience. I was added to their group during my time in Saudi. I was teased because of my appearance: I did look foreign (I’m Swedish and Dutch) just like them but I also looked somewhat male and somewhat female and I easily sunburned. I had to wear tee shirts because of the extreme heat. Every day I would become soaked with sweat. I just teased them back and we got along fine. Many members of this crew had been working at this site for several years. Several were getting ready to go home and retire – at 35 years of age! They had their “nest egg” as they called it. They would finally get to see their wives and their families. They weren’t being held hostage by the company or the Saudi people. It was just that the money they made working everyday, overtime and weekends was incredible. It sounded tempting to me except for the extreme heat and the fact that I was a woman in Saudi Arabia. I would only be working and going to my hotel and doing it under cover, at that. I would become a dried up fig, I imagined.

That first morning on the site I saw the new equipment which my company had shipped to the Bredero Price site. The equipment, a plastic extruder for oil pipe coating, had been installed by the crew under a corrugated roof out on a field of sand. The equipment, they said, was ready to start up. I spent the entire day reviewing the installation and getting my bearings in the scorching June heat. Noon came around and I was invited to the canteen for lunch. The food, basically variations of American food that I knew, was prepared on site. I enjoyed the taste of the hometown food and the camaraderie of the crew. It was during lunch that I learned about each of them and their families. I saw wallet tattered pictures of their wives and kids. After lunch we each grabbed two one liter bottles of water and headed back to work. The bottled water was necessary because the local water was undrinkable and each of us would sweat at least two liters a day through our clothes. The mid day Saudi temperature was 42 degrees C (108 degrees F). I also worked on the heated plastic extruder, so I was doubly parched. I couldn’t drink water fast enough.

The work itself was challenging. I was working alone on the equipment. I had come there to just push buttons but there were problems and parts that needed fixing. I couldn’t directly contact my office because of the difference in time. I had to fax my requests and wait for a reply over night. Someone had to deliver the faxes back and forth to me. All of this interposing communication delayed the commissioning of the equipment. The owners, Bredero Price and the Saudi government, were getting anxious. I didn’t have my passport. It was conscripted at the hotel by Bredero Price. As I learned, they controlled things via the Saudi government. I was more than a little concerned about my situation. I was the one who felt like a hostage. Luckily, as the days passed, I was able to bring the equipment up to working order and only after removing a key component that had failed at start up. I turned that problem over to our company’s sales department and I continued down my start-up path. After two weeks, I was able to create a four foot wide sheet of HDPE plastic, one quarter inch thick. The sheet of plastic exiting the die of the extruder coated a twelve foot diameter oil pipe as the pipe revolved and moved perpendicularly away from the extruder. I was delighted that things had come together. The customer was beginning to see results, too.

My nights in town were spent primarily in front of the TV reruns in my hotel room and in the hotel restaurant trying Middle Eastern food. I liked the lamb shish-kabob with minted yogurt sauce. I finally did venture out into the city in the cool of the evening. I was tired of sitting in my room at night listening to two Saudis making love in the next room. Apparently, it was nightly ritual not related to Ramadan. I dressed in a dark blue linen shirt, blue jeans and a black White Sox baseball hat. I had seen other Americans walking around during my car trips back and forth to the hotel and the work site. I decided to see what was going on outside. I left the hotel and walked down the palm-lined sidewalks.

The first thing I noticed were clusters of Saudi men sitting on the ground smoking water pipes. I watched them from the corner of my eyes as I just kept walking. I went to the market area and walked down the narrow market streets. The crowded little shops were open to the street with pull down shutter doors. These doors were shut during the daily prayer times. I could see the minarets poking above the city skyline. I could hear the loud speaker voice calling the faithful to their prayers. I could see the shop doors being pulled down and locked for half an hour. I would continue to walk and wait till prayer time was over.

The shops were a curious assortment of everyday goods which were sold one shop next to the other. There was a row of watch stores. Then a row of camera stores, a row of women’s clothes stores, a row of men’s clothes stores, rows of food stores, etc. There were little open air cafes along the way. I didn’t try any café food. There were too many flies buzzing around. I took in the smell of mint tea, of shawarma (lamb), grilled chicken and the deep-fried chickpea dish called falafel. I took in the aromas of things I never had smelled before. The heavy enticing smell of Arabic tobacco coming from the water pipes was especially exotic, floating along with other strange scents. I returned to my room for a good nights sleep. I began to feel comfortable being in Saudi Arabia. I would visit the market places again after that, with more courage and more casual curiosity.

Halfway through my stay in Saudi Arabia Father’s Day came up. I knew that I wouldn’t be home to wish my father my love so I decided to call him from the hotel that night. It would be Sunday morning in Chicago. I placed the call on what sounded like very thin wires. My mother answered the phone. I said “Hi” and she knew it was me. She was totally surprised to hear my voice. She asked about how I was doing and other mother questions. She was getting ready to go to church. She gave the phone to my dad. He sounded extremely surprised and very happy that I would call from such a distant place. I wished him “Happy Father’s Day” and told him that I wished that I was at home in Chicago to see him on this day. He was glad that I had called. So was I.

After several weeks of work in the oven of the desert my mission at the job site was completed. The plastic extruder was operating and coating oil pipes 24/7. I finally received my passport back from Bredero Price. I scheduled a flight home via the fax machine. When the day arrived to leave I said goodbye to my new friends. I wished them well. I gathered up my tee shirts and my few belongings, packed my suitcase and headed for the Mercedes waiting for me. I enjoyed the day light ride back to the airport. I could see all that I missed traveling on that first night in the desert. There were men riding camels, sheep and shepherds and goats. There were women in black abayas with their faces half hidden with boshiyas, and hundreds of pilgrims returning from Mecca. I was glad to get to the airport to be going home.

I boarded the direct flight to New York. It would be at least fourteen hours of flying. I found my seat and let my shoulders relax for the first time in weeks. When the plane taxied the runway and then lifted off I was even more relieved. I began to see that the Saudi women were more relieved than I. When the “FASTEN SEAT BELT” light went off most of the Saudi women, mother and daughters, all of them covered from head to toe with their black burqas, headed for the bathrooms. When they came out they were each wearing jeans and typical tops worn by western women. The western transformation took off when the plane no longer touched Saudi soil. I was amazed and happy for them. I felt liberated, too. Father’s Day had past and Mother’s Day was just beginning, for some.

© Sally Paradise, 2010, All Rights Reserved

(Author’s note: This is a true story. Just ask my dad.)