Modern day Christian women wearing burqas?
Surely this is not true? The burqa is a full-body veil. The woman’s complete face and body are covered, and she is only able to see through a mesh screen over the eyes. It is most commonly worn in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Under the Taliban establishment in Afghanistan (1996–2001), its use was required by law.
To that extent, the women had no choice but to wear the heavy, black cloak, no matter the weather. And in my research, I have found that many women choose to wear the burqa out of religious commitment or personal codes of modesty.
My dad, who travels abroad extensively for work, reports having been in Dubai, which is situated on the Persian Gulf of the United Arab Emirates. While in Dubai, where the average temperature high of 106 degrees (overnight lows of 86) and record highs of 131 degrees, the only reprieve is swimming. He told me he would see fathers and their children frolicking in the semi-cool-tepid swimming pool while the mother sat pool side, fully covered and most likely baking underneath the shroud of her burqa.
Recently, my family and I traveled to San Diego, California for our son’s graduation from Marine Bootcamp. To celebrate, we spent two days with our new Marine on the gold coast of Coronado beach. The beach in itself is fantastic, with gold flecks in the water and sand, limited dangerous sea life (sting rays and jelly fish), and cool, clear Pacific blue water. Although it was mid-June, the temperatures averaged in the 80’s, but the reflective waters and shimmering sand made it feel much warmer.
And there she sat.
Draped in black.
Her eyes barely visible.
Upon the family of five’s arrival, the woman swaddled from head to toe in the heavy burqa also carried a large cooler and a huge, colorful beach bag on each shoulder. Her husband, dressed in swim trunks and elaborate floral print, short sleeved, button down shirt, straw fedora, and sunglasses, carried nothing. Her two sons and very young daughter were dressed in swimsuits, flip flops, and sunglasses. Each child had a multicolored beach towel draped around their neck, and each carried an inflatable beach toy of some sort.
The family settled, and the father and children ran to the water. She sat on the cooler, hands folded, face and body unquestionably melting beneath yards of a heavy black veil. A veil meant to hide her and confine her.
Because of our picnic position behind them, I was able to observe her all day.
She never ate or drank. After two and a half hours at play in the waves, her family returned. The woman in black spread a red and white striped picnic blanket and served the family on paper plates. Methodically, she poured them drinks and passed out napkins.
She never took a bite, nor a sip. As her family ate their lunches, she stood, as if at military attendance behind the cooler. When they finished she collected their trash and hiked across the burning sand to the waste receptacles. She sorted the trash between recyclables and garbage. She returned to her station, folding up the blanket and organizing the bags. I held my breath as I waited for her to finally sit on the cooler. I hoped she would drink one of the ice cold sodas I saw her pass to her family, even a sip of water – something to cool herself. She never did.
When they left she carried all the belongings back to the car, the weighty wet towels stacked on top of the cooler. This time, the father carried the sleepy little girl. He offered no other help, neither did the boys.
Perhaps it is extreme.
Certainly, this isn’t the norm. Truthfully, I would be lying if I said I hadn’t developed an intense hate for the husband, a little for his sons. Broken, I felt compassion and heartache for the wife and utter dread for the little girl. Through misty eyes, I had watched the darling pixie with dark locks frolic in a Dora the Explorer swimsuit, laughing and playing with her dad and brothers in the surf. She had tasted the cool beach water, felt the sun on her already brown skin. The tiny daughter gulped crisp icy soda and filled her beach-play hungry belly with sandwiches, chips, dips, and berries.
I couldn’t help but wonder, later in life, buried under a steamy burqa, watching her family play, would she not ache for the refreshment of freedom? Would her throat not beg for a fuzzy orange soda? Would her body burn with the cruel confinement of never feeling the slap of salty seas on her flesh ever again?
Having never chased waves or felt the enchanting sting of sun and sandy salt water in her huge brown eyes, would she be better off when she peered through the mesh filter of her burqa?
If you do not know what you have lost, maybe you have more contentment not knowing what the loss was in the first place?
I am left to wonder why so many of us, having been washed in freedom of cool baptismal water, drinking deeply from the new life born in us through Jesus Christ, are still heavily draped in the law, sin focus, and shame… the Christian Burqa.
We have been home from California for nearly a month, yet every day since the woman in a heavy black burqa on the beach has lobbied my mind for space. As I began to put into words how she pierced my heart, I was slain by what was being unearthed in me. As I wrestled with the dread of admitting the truth, I dripped beads of sweat and I recognized I was baking to death in a metaphorical burqa of shame and condemnation.
Having been free from the stench of condemnation and the weight of guilt that came from an imaginary and icky Jesus, for nearly a year, I quickly felt all the pangs of being miserably overdressed and trapped on the scorching beach.
Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. 1 Corinthians 10:23
Indeed, this has been my Grace Scripture truth and freedom. Under the Jewish Law, which was good and holy but did not make me good and holy, I was broken and miserable. I was unable to keep the law, and if I did not follow all of the law, I followed none of the law. Also, I am not Jewish, so in reality, I wasn’t even invited to the law. Still, having been well versed and churched up, I picked and chose the Laws that I certainly could do. I wasn’t killing anyone. I wasn’t cheating on my husband. Also, I took a ritual nap on Sundays, which wasn’t actually the Sabbath but that’s not the point, and I don’t eat shell fish or pork, except for bacon, which is straight from Jesus.
I laminated my list of do-gooding, and I highlighted my self-righteous attempts at being more like God, which in fact just made me more like Eve. Under the New Covenant, the blood sacrifice that God made with himself, by sacrificing His beloved Boy on the Cross, I am free from the Law. Nope, still not killing anyone. Nope, still not going to the honky-tonk with a random stranger I met on Facebook. Still taking the Sunday nap, skipping on shrimp cocktail (not because it’s wrong but because…ew) and still loving bacon, cause if it is wrong… ok fine.
And there are no buts in freedom. If Christ sets you free, you are free indeed. But – a little yeast leavens the whole freaking loaf. And all was well and good and then…
I ate a cookie.
You read that right.
But I will write it again, and this time, I will tell the truth.
I ate two cookies.
Perhaps it was a habit. I hadn’t “dieted” since I fell into the arms of Grace. Instead, I had lived in the freedom, everything is permissible, but is it beneficial? And this had magically erased nearly 18 pounds from my curvy frame. It had also afforded me… peace. Still, since I tore my calf muscle, I needed to lose much more. I was suffering from headaches and sinus trouble and also, a big butt.
After meeting with my homeopathic doctor, I came to the reality that sugar and refined carbs were disastrous to my health. My Hoshimotos thyroiditis was best controlled with a low-carb, high-fat nutrition lifestyle. I rearranged my fridge and pantry. I bought a couple cook books, and I penned some notes on what was beneficial and what was not. Within 4 days of my new eating plan, I was down another 4 pounds, my skin was clear, I was sleeping better, and I had energy. Energy is monumental, as I struggle with chronic fatigue syndrome as well.
I was in rock-star mode.
Fully powered, I cleaned out closets, organized drawers, and took the kids for afternoon swims. Energized, I was waking up ready to Zumba, swing my kettle bell or spin. Inspired, I menu planned, grocery shopped, and did the laundry. Y’all, I wrote and turned in my second book. So many things were going right, I started to fear they would eventually go wrong if I didn’t do something to control the momentum.
Something I had promised myself I would not do.
Lord forgive me, I couldn’t help it. I laminated a list of the things that were good and the things that were bad.
I know, it’s hard for me to admit to you… Sorry to disappoint you. Alas, I have come this far. So confident in this new found law and its benefits… I laminated it on card stock, 10 mil gauge.
For those of you who do not struggle with laminating laws, this is serious level laminating. Normal lamination is 1.5mls. 10 mils offer remarkable rigidity and security. Pieces laminated with 10mil film cannot be bent or creased effortlessly. A 10mil laminate is often used on identification cards and badges, reusable tags, and reference sheets, as well as indoor/outdoor restaurant and bar menus that do not fold. Because of its loftier durability, a 10mil laminate is recommended for any printed pieces that are subject to spills, fires, or other equally damaging incidents.
I used a 10 mil.
I put on the burqa and sat my butt on a cooler on a beach in the blazing hot sun… and wallowed in my captivity. Please note, while some women chose the traditional Burqa, others do not, and I am not minimizing their hideous treatment. But to me, the metaphor was clear. I was back under the law.
A law I wasn’t invited to.
A law that was fulfilled by Jesus Christ.
And then, I ate two cookies – vanilla thumbprint cookies, from the bakery. And although they were permissible, they were not beneficial. Well, except for one thing they opened my eyes to my folly.
No, wheat and sugar are not beneficial to me. Physically, I can’t even – don’t make me.
Mentally? Well, there’s more to the mental aspects than I realized. It should be noted that I have no patience, no endurance or emotional energy when I eat sugar or wheat. Will I make this mistake again? Probably. Still, I have so noted that I am negatively affected by these two ingredients, SIGNIFICANTLY. A headache, hands shaking, eye twitching, and irritability, also… crying. Yes, snot flying sobs, for unknown reasons.
But spiritually? Nothing can separate me from the love of God. For years I believed failing my laminated list meant I had failed God and He was now mad at me. Laugh if you will, but whether it be laminating or some other law you have added to the work of the Cross in order to redeem yourself, you are smothering yourself under a heavy black burka. Instead of frolicking in the crisp, clear waters of redemption you are sweating it out, over dressed, stressed, sitting on a cooler on a golden beach.
Not one more study on what’s wrong with you.
You don’t have to carry all the things by yourself.
There is nothing about you that needs to be fixed to the point you are fixated on anything but Jesus.
The work was completed on the Cross. You are a slave to nothing but your freedom. It makes no sense, I know. And for the better part of a year, I have roamed about hopelessly in love with the real Jesus and completely free from the burden of a burqa.
I won’t go back. The cookies, while harmful to my mental and physical health, did not separate from the love of my God. They simply alerted me to the yeast that was leavening the loaf… weighing down my wardrobe, obstructing my view and keeping me hot, bothered, and believing in the old lies of the old Jami and an imaginary Jesus.
Imagine delighting in the sunshine, forgiven, fed, free from thirst, condemnation, and shame – this is what Jesus came and died for, your freedom. Step away from the laminator, let loose of the lies that keep you bound.
Strip down, sister – freedom is yours.
May your floors be sticky and your calling ordained. Love, Jami