—by Julia Seymour
I live a life of flannel shirts, sweaters and jeans. My Sunday clothes are knit clergy shirts, so comfortable I can forget I am wearing them, and soft, relaxed skirts. Usually I wear leggings and flats, but I can occasionally be coaxed into fully footed tights if the weather is cool enough.
When I see other women dressed carefully in sharply put together outfits, fancy shoes and matching purses, I feel admiration. It’s like they have a skill that I do not possess. I do not live in a space that requires those things— nor do I find pleasure in that style—but I can understand that some people do. I get my own nails done regularly, and I get my eyebrows and lip waxed as well. There are women who don’t need or want to choose those habits.
What’s surprising to me is not how different we can all be, but how quickly we make assumptions about other people and their choices. It would be easy for someone to think that I’m just a sloppy dresser, instead of considering that I live in a rural area and am as likely to walk in a pasture for a pastoral conversation as to go to a coffee shop. Another person might judge that women who get their facial hair removed or shaped or their nails done are vain without considering that these services may be essential to one’s self-presentation or care.
Snap judgments can get in the way of relationships. We might pre-decide that a person who looks one way or dresses another would not be a friend to us or perhaps we wouldn’t be a friend to her. It is sad to think how quickly we make decisions to protect ourselves without having all the information. It is when I hear one woman or a group of women whispering behind the back of another, especially about her choices or struggles, that I think of Michal, daughter of Ahinoam and King Saul, sister to Merab and Jonathan, first wife to King David, wife to Paltiel, and our biblical sister.
A WOMAN WHO LOVES
Michal (mee-HALL) has the distinction of being the only woman in the Bible reported to have loved a man. Sure, many women in the Bible may have loved men; in fact, they probably did. The Scripture, however, only records Michal’s love for David (1 Samuel 18:20). Her affection for David not only gives her agency within the story, but it makes her one of the rare royal (or non-royal) wives to be mentioned beyond a list of her children or a note about her lack of children…
We are not told what David thought about Michal, but we are told that he acquired what King Saul asked of him in order to marry her. David and Michal are married, and we are reminded that she loves him (1 Samuel 18:28). Saul becomes concerned that the Lord seems to be on David’s side and at least two of his children, Jonathan and Michal, love David more than their father.
When Saul makes a plan to kill David, Michal makes a counter-plan to help David escape. She lowers her husband out a window (1 Samuel 19:12) and hides a household idol in his bed. She even covers the idol with a blanket and a little goat hair to make it look like David is sleeping in the bed. She buys David getaway time; first by saying he is too sick to see the king and then lying to her father by saying that David forced her to do it. Michal’s deception, rooted in her love for David, helped him escape Saul’s plot to kill him.
A PLOT TWIST
It would be wonderful if David remembered Michal’s faithfulness to him, her willingness to risk her own neck, and her relationship with her father, but things do not seem to work out that way. In 1 Samuel 25:44, we learn that Saul marries Michal off to a man named Palti. She is still referred to as David’s wife in this verse. We learn about this change in her circumstances right after learning about David taking Abigail and Ahinoam (a different Ahinoam than Michal’s mother) as wives…
When women speak ill or judgmentally about other women, I think of Michal. She was a woman who loved and acted bravely out of that love. Yet she was a pawn to her father, unfavored by her husband, taken from a man who loved her, and she died without her culture’s perceived primary blessing, children. We only know bits and pieces of her story, but we can relate to her pain, her struggles and her own determination.
I hope that Abigail and Bathsheba took her in and were friends to her. I hope they sympathized with the fickleness of kings and the heartbreak of losing a spouse. I hope that she was a favored auntie of children in the royal household and that the servants knew her as a kind mistress. I hope that she loved others and was loved in return.
Surely we want the same thing for the women (and men) around us. We want them to thrive, to be cared for, to love and be loved for who they are. What we want for Michal can be possible for each of us, if we remember that each person we see has a lot of story we do not know. We do not know why someone seems short-tempered, in a hurry, always late or a little distant.
Just like our wardrobes, personal habits and hobbies differ, our stories are our own. When we take the time to listen to one another, to be patient, to offer a smile or hold back a quick retort, then we may be the moment of peace our sister or brother needs in their day.
The Rev. Julia Seymour serves Big Timber Lutheran Church in Big Timber, Montana. She enjoys her flannel and denim-clad life with her husband, Rob, their two children, Daniel and Victoria, a dog and a rabbit.
This article is excerpted from the March 2020 issue of Gather magazine. To read more like it, subscribe to Gather.
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