An Interview with Michelle Shaw on Ruth and Hannah

Today's interview installment comes from a really dear and beloved friend of mine, Michelle Shaw- without whom this blog may not have come into existence (because the firm talking to she gave me a few years ago- basically telling me to stop complaining about my present circumstances and make more use of my gifts- was one of the catalysts to me writing in this particular niche).

This blessed woman of God, like most of us, balances many roles. She is a pillar in her community, working as a teacher by profession in addition to serving her church as a minister in training and much more- all while balancing her familial duties as a mother, sister, daughter, auntie, cousin, friend and (most recently) grandma! The depth of wisdom provided in her interview is therefore just as multifaceted, given that she chose to discuss her two favourite women of the Bible (Ruth and Hannah) and how they reflect the many different seasons we may encounter, as women, along our faith walk.

Who is your favourite woman of the Bible and why? What would you say that modern women can learn from her?

My favourite woman of the Bible is Ruth in regards to the relocation aspect of her story- relocating due to loyalty; relocating because of a connection with (Naomi) the person she had now taken on as a relative and mother. Myself, for example, I relocated a few years ago because I wanted to be closer to my family. With my sights on that and staying true to what I needed to do, other opportunities then arose out of it. I also identify with Ruth because she went from one very bad situation to a much better one and then became recognised in her own right for her own works- eventually meeting her Boaz. That is almost like my story- 

I came out of a marriage that was stagnant, wasn’t going anywhere and probably should have never been in the first place. Moving on from that- and deciding that I wasn’t actually going to go down that road again- caused me to meet the partner that I have now and meeting him has brought me to other things, such as a closer walk with God and my current Christian walk. My path in what I do now- minister training, pastor aid, minister aid, working with a women’s ministry- all of those things wouldn’t have come had I not made that decision to relocate, like Ruth did. So, even if our relationship doesn’t work out to be permanent, the actual path that he has been a medium to will be forever because my walk with Christ is going to be forever. I didn’t know that my Christian walk would be placed in front of me through him, I just knew that I needed to relocate to gain something better; to move forward and progress in my life (like Ruth) and through that, Christ himself became my Boaz.

What I am learning at the moment is that, even though the stories of the Bible are very much about people. they are spiritually metaphorical. An example of this is when my pastor preached about adultery a while back. At first I thought he was going down the road of it’s not just a physical act but one that begins in the mind, but he actually went into something else. He talked about the fact that if we are the bride of Christ we, as Christians, can commit adultery with the world. For me that made so much sense. He said you can’t be lusting over worldly stuff and worldly ways when you are now married and partnered up with Christ. So for me it’s almost like- although I have done this physical walk of changing my life by changing where I live and relocating from Brixton to Wembley (boroughs within London), and I’m now with a different partner whom God has used to open doors to Him- this is also a metaphorical image of me moving from the world into a relationship with God. That’s why I say Christ became my Boaz and why, if anything, I can relate to Ruth the most.

If I was to talk about another woman of the Bible it would probably be Hannah because of the fact that she was so desperate for something great. She had to get to a point where she was on her hands and knees before it could be birthed. She had to go to God through embarrassment; through shame; through feeling excluded because her husband's other wife had children with him and Hannah was not in a position to do that. (At that time, that was a shame and embarrassment as women were validated by giving birth, especially to boys). 

I’ve had my children and I’ve done a single mother walk; I’ve done a married mother walk and I’ve been a single mother although still married, I’ve been a divorcee mother and had to do that single mother walk yet again…so there have been times when I, like Hannah, have been in a negative space and thought:

“This is just…I’m just a mess! Lord, if You could just make these children magnificent. Bring them through my womb safely and all I’m asking is that they walk with You; that they’re approved by You”

Because you get to that point where you’re not even concerned about them being rich, you’re not concerned about them having lots of stuff, being famous and being recognised in the world. You get to that point where you realise that the most important thing is for them to walk with God and to know Him because without that, either their lives will be short lived or they’ll become empty spiritual shells belonging to the world and nothing else. I don’t think I ever wanted that for my kids and it’s the same with Hannah. I think Hannah very much wanted the child that she was blessed with to pay homage to the giver and I can identify with that.

Hannah, like Ruth, was in a place of desperation; in a place of desolation; in a place of bareness- which caused them both to make that step, make their promises, go on their hands and knees, and do what they needed to do to move forward. Their openness, vulnerability and obedience caused them to let God have His way, and we could all learn to do that in our modern Christian walks.

Please finish the sentence: I am a Christian woman who is...

I am a Christian woman who is faithful. I think without faith you can do absolutely nothing. One could say a Christian woman is strong but without faith you can’t be strong because faith is your strength. Faith is that thing that you have to hold on to. Faith is that thing that people see in you. Faith is that thing where... at the end of the day, you may be going through stuff now, but you know it doesn’t bother you as much as it would if you didn’t have that faith. I’m not talking smidgens of it. When I say faithful, I mean full of faith. As Christ says, you can have a mustard seed sized faith, but we are in end times! Mustard seed faith is not enough. It is the minimum. Really, we need to be walking full of it. We need to be so full of faith that we know that our God is faithful to us as long we walk with Him.

For me a Christian woman is faithful- she must be, has to be and is because, in doing that, you will believe in everything that you do your footsteps are ordered by Him and Him alone. I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s not easy but it grows with every experience that you have, and it grows with every opportunity that God has had in your life to prove that He’s there. So each experience makes you more full of faith so that when you get to another tribulation you’re like: 

“Well actually He fixed that and that was worse…or actually He fixed that; it might not have been as bad but it’s similar to this”.

Those experiences then allow you to share your testimony with other people who are going through the same thing. You can say:

“Look, I’ve been there so I’m not speaking out of lack of experience. I’ve been there and the reason I can stand in front of you now faithful (full of faith) is because I’m standing here now, in front of you, not looking torn up, not feeling torn up and none the worse for wear but if anything, wiser, if anything kinder, if anything more mellow...”

Because obviously, with that faith, it softens you. If you go through experiences in the world without God you can become hard, you can become cynical; you can become despondent. If you go through a similar experience but you’re walking in Christ, instead of being any of those things, you become more faithful for every trial and tribulation you conquer and you are victorious over. 

Please finish the sentence: I am a Christian woman who is not…

I am a Christian woman who is not weak. We could go into the highly favoured, and the beautiful, and the amazing, and we can go into Proverbs but I think, as I said, if a Christian woman is faithful then they are strong- and that means they are not weak.

I think sometimes we confuse being submissive with weakness, we sometimes confuse humbleness with weakness too but you have to be strong to be humble; you have to be strong to submit- especially if you have a personality like myself or others that I know. We are quite out-spoken, we are quite independent, we know what we want, we’re strong minded; determined. It’s very difficult to submit when those characteristics of yours are challenged or you feel that you’re undermined. So being able to submit and be humble when you're like that, I feel, are traits of strength.

The weakness comes when you falter, the weakness comes when you shout and scream and aren’t able to control that, the weakness comes when you act impulsively and not responsibly- that’s weakness- and again that only comes with a woman who is not firm in her faith. A woman of faith understands that words fitly spoken are more effective as they are received in a better way by other people.

So in conclusion, a Christian woman is not weak and when I say that I mean is not weak and impressionable, and impulsive and all the other things that the world would have them be, and would think that they are.