Psalm 9:1-2,7-11,13-14 (Gafney’s translation)
1I will give thanks to the God Who Saves with my whole heart;
I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
2I will rejoice and exult in you;
I will sing praise to your name, Most High.
7God Who Is Majesty sits enthroned forever,
she has established her throne for judgment.
8She judges the world in righteousness;
she judges the peoples with equity.
9She Who Is Faithful is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
10They trust you, they who know your name,
for you do not forsake those who seek you, Redeeming God.
11Sing praises to the Holy One enthroned in Zion.
Declare her deeds among the peoples.
13Be gracious to me, Gracious One.
See what I suffer from those who hate me.
You lift me up from the gates of death,
14so that I may recount all your praises,
and in the gates of the Daughter of Zion,
rejoice in your salvation.
She Got This
When I’ve asked people to name a person of strength, answers vary, but they typically have a common
thread. Some people think of their single mothers who raised their families successfully against stigma,
financial strain, and other obstacles. Others think of their grandmothers, who dealt with the hand they
were given despite archaic gender roles, offering wisdom and life lessons to anyone who would listen.
Still others may think of historical figures, such as Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, or more recent heroines
such as Pauli Murray or Ruth Bader Ginsburg, all symbols of strength in activism. What you may have
noticed in these answers is that these people are women (or identified as women at some point in their
life). But there is more happening here that I find intriguing.
First, these “people of strength” appear to be less about physical prowess and more about emotional
resilience, unwavering character, and mental fortitude. Second, these answers help us recognize that
while physical strength is typically implied to be a masculine trait, emotional or spiritual strength is
typically implied to be a more feminine trait. Thirdly, and perhaps most fascinating, is that despite this
acknowledgement of feminine strength, for many of us the very idea that the divine God could be
anything other than masculine is radical or outright condemned.
Yet, scripture itself demonstrates a God who is both strong and feminine. It is this feminine, all-powerful, yet redeeming God whom the author uplifts in Psalm 9. It is this God who does good deeds (v
1), is most high (v 2), is royal, (v 7), is a judge of righteousness (v 8), is a stronghold (v 9), and is a
redeemer (v 13). Who would’ve thought that the strong, secure, and protecting nature of God is also
that of the feminine? The psalmist clearly knew, and Dr. Wilda Gafney’s translation reminds us of this
explicitly. Strength and femininity existing at once, within the same being are not foreign concepts to us,
as exemplified in my opening anecdotal evidence. Yet how often do we juxtapose the two, feigning
ignorance of the possibility? What are we taking away from God to deny the beautifully intertwined
nature of strength and femininity in the divine?
I believe no one knows this complexity more intimately than Black women. The “Strong Black woman”
trope has existed for decades, most often now read between the lines of pithy tweets and shirt slogans
that read “God is a Black Woman” or “Black Women Will Save Us” or even “Listen to Black Women.”
While the intent is lovely, the impact is tiring. As a Black woman, I’m tired of being strong. I’m tired of
being expected to save others. I’m tired of having to be someone’s savior or redeeming God. “God is
God, and I am not,” were the words that flashed on screen before a striking performance from Beyonce
in 2016, and very fitting as a reminder in this season of Christmastide. What would it look like to be free
of the expectations of perfect strength for just a moment? What would it look like to liberate ourselves
from the heavy responsibility of saving everyone? The old Church used to say it like this: just give it to
God. The phrase was never nuanced for me personally, as it reduces injustice in this world to a solely
divine act, removing the onus from humanity. However, I’m reclaiming the phrase. Like the psalmist, I
trust God to be strong, so I don’t have to be. I trust God to do what is beyond my limits. You can trust
God too. We don’t have to do it all, save all, or be all. We can be the beautiful blend of feminine, strong,
and yes, human.
In this season, whether you identify as a Black woman or not, the Messiah has come, hallelujah! We
have the one who saves, who redeems, and who delivers among us. For me, I’m trusting that in my
human imperfections and inadequacies, that the birth of Emmanuel, GOD AMONG US, is indeed the one
who saves, who is majesty, who is faithful, and who redeems. I’m trusting that God is strong, that She’s
got this, and She’s got us!
Prayer: Gracious God, SHE WHO IS FAITHFUL, God our redeemer, thank you for being a stronghold for
the oppressed, and a stronghold in times of trouble. It is not by our power or our might, but by your
strength that we are redeemed. Remind us that we will not always feel strong, but we are always in your
grace. Remind us that we will not always feel strong, but we can rely on your strength. Remind us that
we will not always feel strong, but you are always with us in spirit. In the name of Jesus, the one who
redeems, we pray. Amen.
Rev. Tara Gibbs currently serves as the Minister to Youth & College at Myers Park Baptist Church in
Charlotte, NC. She is also pursuing a Doctorate in Educational Ministry at Columbia Theological
seminary, keeping sane by watching anime, fishing, and spending time with her loved ones.
This blog series made possible in part by a gift from Myers Park Baptist Church, Charlotte, NC.
If you or your congregation is also using Year W this liturgical year, we would love to hear from you. Please email us at email@example.com. Further resources and online conversation about using the Year W lectionary can also be found at Wilda Gafney’s website: https://www.wilgafney.com/womenslectionary/