As a rule, I don’t take well to the separation of men and women in artmaking. I don’t think that individual sexes hold the keys to a certain set of artistic or personality traits, nor do I believe either have a creative advantage over the other. While this is true, I’m often struck by the impact of women in my life and marvel at the particular perspective they provide that so deeply relates to my own. Perhaps this is why Wendell Berry’s Hannah Coulter left me with tear-dampened cheeks and a soul-shaken spirit at each reading, while Jayber Crow was simply an enjoyable (albeit, uniquely enjoyable) read.
For this reason, I’ve found myself drawn to the Faithful project just released into the world. “Project” hardly begins to cover the footprint of the book, music, live event, eventual podcast—it’s more akin to a movement or concept. At its core, Faithful begins with stories of women in the Bible and invites female artists of all kinds to interact with them. Artists like Amy Grant, Ellie Holcomb, Ginny Owens, Jess Ray, Taylor Leonhardt, Sandra McCracken, Leslie Jordan, and so many others joined forces with writers like Sally Lloyd-Jones, Ann Voskamp, Trillia Newbell, and Ruth Chou Simons to reflect on the Biblical narrative through a female lens—and write about it. The result is an exploration of themes that find their way into the hearts and minds of women throughout generations through song and written word.
Faithful began with a series of writing retreats in Nashville’s Art House as participants were given prompts from the Bible of women whose own stories tell us more about the faithfulness of the Creator. Biblical figures like Ruth, Esther, Mary, and Miriam were offered as reflection points. Writers were encouraged to join with musicians and let the miraculous ways of artmaking bring forth something new. Admittedly, some of the authors found themselves feeling unequipped to handle the pressure of writing a song (as the joke was made in the livestream event, “before this, I didn’t know what a ‘bridge’ was…”). Despite their insecurity, their words were invited to take shape not only through song in a recorded album, but also through the written word in the form of the beautifully-bound book that accompanies the project. There’s even a Faithful necklace created in partnership with the ethically-conscious brand ABLE.
The passing down of wisdom and truth from generation to generation isn’t unique to a female or male perspective, but I’ve been grateful for the ways it has impacted my own experience as a woman making sense of that which surrounds me. And how wonderful when these themes can be translated into song, story, and art. Faithful defends the honor of telling stories from the female perspective in a world that often either seeks to silence that perspective or can’t fully realize the breadth of its meaning. Our own experiences of God’s faithfulness can galvanize others as the stories of biblical characters spur us on.
Faithful defends the honor of telling stories from the female perspective in a world that often either seeks to silence that perspective or can't fully realize the breadth of its meaning. Leslie E. Thompson
I found this to be true in my recent history when my husband and I suffered a miscarriage. Through this experience, I found a new perspective of the story of the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years. The physical undoings of a pregnancy through miscarriage can bring similar symptoms with weeks of pain, and when I first remembered this story I was moved at the response of Jesus as the woman grabs his cloak. He felt all twelve years of her pain, embarrassment, discouragement, hopelessness—he knew her struggle, and he knew the depth to which she desired healing. My own pain pales in comparison to a twelve-year battle, but Jesus’ response to this woman reminds me of his kindness and grace in my life. The stories we hear in Sunday school become tangible when we experience the human reality they reflect, and the gracious healing of the one who has made us. One doesn’t need to be a woman to realize that there is a deep, rich culture of womanhood in the stories of the Bible. And regardless of what your own culture looked like in church or out of it, we do well to take these stories in mind and amplify those whose voices are hushed in the scriptures, but whose stories speak volumes of what Jesus has done.
One such story highlighted on the Faithful record is that of Rahab, who is known in the Old Testament as a prostitute whose aid in the hiding spies sent by Joshua to investigate Jericho resulted in a victory for the Israelites. The story is short, as is often the case with women in the Bible, but mention of Rahab is made in Hebrews as an example of a person of faith and good works, and—perhaps most notable—Rahab shows up in the lineage of Christ as the mother of Boaz. From these small bits in scripture, the song “Rahab’s Lullaby (God Above, God Below)” was created. The Faithful livestream event allowed the writers to share their conversation in the co-writing room, and the comment was made that Rahab surely sang to her son about the goodness of God as her family was spared due to her faithfulness.
The body of Christ is fully realized in men and women alike, and while traits are found across the male/female divide, there is a comfort in hearing voices with like-but-unique-timbres singing and telling of uncertainty, perseverance, joy, and ultimately, hope.
Throughout the Faithful project, hope is put on full display. Sally Lloyd-Jones offers a particularly beautiful poem in the book inspired by the personhood of Eve:
Eve, you’re not the worst of us. You’re just the first of us. —Sally Lloyd-Jones
In recent years, the illustration of a pregnant Mary introducing her swollen belly to a downcast Eve has made its rounds on social media. The piece comes from Sister Grace Remington from the Sisters of the Mississippi Abbey in Iowa. The gospel brings together in a single image two characters separated by thousands of years and an entire Testament in the Bible. Eve holds the end of the string that runs throughout the biblical narrative and is eventually placed in the hands of a young Mary—who surely learned of Eve, the woman who took and ate and set forth the motion of God’s great plan of redemption. Mary must have considered Eve and the purpose of that story in her own life.
“Mary & Eve” by Scott Erickson, based off of Sister Grace Remington’s original.
In the same way, we can find great meaning and purpose by reading about those who have gone before us and whose characters are on display in the Scriptures. And as God continues to work his plan of rescue, we build upon those stories in hope for a day when we can meet these women in the flesh, as God’s New Earth brings life for all eternity.
Sally ends her poem with this:
At the end of time, Eve, I see you at the Wedding feast of the Lamb. When everything sad will come untrue… And as we sit together at His table, Eve, I hear Him say with tears and great laughter— Take, And eat! —Sally Lloyd-Jones