“And she (Tamar) put her widow’s garments off from her, and covered her with a vail, and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place, which is by the way to Timnath; for she (Tamar) saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given unto him to wife. When Judah saw her (Tamar), he thought her to be an harlot; because she had covered her face.”
Genesis 38: 14, 15
King James Version
“Tamar Goes To Timnath”
Let’s Play Dress-Up!
“Self-respect is the key to self-esteem. We cannot hope to feel good about ourselves unless we are living a life that respects our own values.”
Has there been a time in my life when I did not “respect” myself?
What events in my life contributed to how I felt?
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
“God who made you has something to say to you; the God who formed you in the womb wants to help you.”
Isaiah 44: 1,2
Years ago, whenever my nieces, Aimee, and Bethanie, came to my house, they always wanted to play one game – dress-up. It was probably because they were allowed to wear anything in my closet. In fact, even though they are both adults now, my favorite pictures from days past are when two young girls were all prettied up in their aunt’s clothes, pretending they were grown-ups, too.
Children aren’t the only ones who play dress-up. We mature girls resort to dress-up games all the time. But our attempts to disguise what’s going on inside by wearing camouflage on the outside often subjects us emotionally to great pain.
When I was in high school, I’ll never forget going to a classmate’s after school. Her “home” was a mansion, built on acres of lush-covered foliage with a creek running under a quaint bridge that led to etched-glass front doors. Inside the perfectly decorated house, with its stunning carved stairway, I could hardly believe what I saw. My friend’s huge bedroom was the size of half my family’s house. Of course, when I went home I couldn’t stop talking about the grandeur my friend lived in. As I rattled on and on I said to my mom, “I sure wish I could live in that home.” My mother’s response at the time surprised me, “Don’t be so sure, Dorothy,” she said, “you might be shocked to find out that under all that beauty there’s a lot of pain.”
It took years for me to recognize my mother knew a great deal about the pain in that home, for my friend’s mom trusted my mother and had confided in her frequently. The fancy clothes, the big house, the flashy car, and the radiant smiles hid not only pain, but were used as a covering that hid the lack of self-respect which had built up through the years because of abusive treatment in the house.
The author of Temptations Women Face, Mary Ellen Ashcroft, so aptly penned these words: “Trying to heap up trophies to prove how worthwhile I am springs from poor self-image. I believe that I am not loved and accepted so I desperately try to fill in the blank with external successes.”
Sadly, this is often the reason we “grown-up girls” play dress-up. We feel “less-than” somewhere in our lives so we cover ourselves with make-up, clothes, and adornments, hoping that the outside glitter will divert attention from our inside groaning.
Written in 1891, Portraits of Women by C. A. Sainte-Beuve, shares an essay about Madame de Stael which states: “We cease loving ourselves when no one loves us.” I believe this truth appropriately describes the situation our Biblical heroine, Tamar, found herself in.
Treated poorly by husband number one, Er, and then sexually disrespected by his brother Onan, Tamar looked to her father-in-law Judah for respect. Unfortunately, Judah had proved that he was not a person who held women in high-esteem. Like many of the men in his family, women were to bear children. Anything less, meant you (as a woman) were not fulfilling your role in the family. Instead of honoring Tamar, Judah sent her home to her father – a childless, rejected, young widow.
After his own wife had died, and Judah was back in circulation, hunting for female companionship, we find he chose to “use” the services of a woman he assumed was a harlot. A prostitute fit his taste. Only there’s one big problem. The woman he decided to go to bed with was no harlot. She was Tamar – his forgotten daughter-in-law.
It is here in this story where we need to stop and ask the two questions we are asking about every woman we study:
1. Why would God put her story in the Bible?
2. What can I, as a woman in the 21st century, learn from Tamar’s tale?
If I were God and I wanted to write a biography like most people write, I think I would have left out the story about Dinah and Shechem and this story about Tamar and Judah. God’s people don’t look very good. They are deceptive and disobedient. They even became murderers trying to avenge their own reputation which the Bible tells us “stank” up all of Canaan.
Now, we find one of Jacob’s sons, Judah, whom I might add was the head of the tribe from which Jesus came into this world, sought services of someone he thought was a prostitute. So I ask again, “Why would God put this story in the Bible?”
I believe the key to unlocking the lesson of this story for you and me lies in our focus on Tamar. This girl was repeatedly disrespected and obviously unloved. Over time, she, as George Eliot asserted “Are all apt to believe what the world believes about us.” This is exactly what I think happened to Tamar. Disrespected by every man in her life, she began to think about herself the way others treated her.
Banished to her father’s house with no prospects for marriage in the future, denied the husband and family she longed for, Tamar thought so little of herself, I can just hear her say, “The only way I’ll ever have a man again is to be a prostitute. I’ll make myself so available, someone, somewhere will want me. Even if they have to pay – at least I’ll get somebody to come to me.”
What did Tamar do? She took off her “good girl,” society-appropriate widow’s clothes and hid herself with a veil and dressed like a harlot.
Here’s the lesson for all of God’s girls today. If we hide our true, God-ordained, God-created selves in order to be accepted by individuals around us, we are, like Tamar, selling ourselves too cheap. The apostle Paul, in I Corinthians 6: 20 reminds us we have been, “bought with a price,” and then he continues by admonishing us to “therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
You see, Tamar didn’t belong to the evil Er and Onan. She didn’t even belong to Judah who had arranged her marriage with his sons.
Tamar belonged to God – her Father – who, as our text today says had “formed her in the womb.” Before Tamar was even born, God had a plan for her life, just as He has a plan for your life and mine. I can assure you, God’s plan wasn’t that any of His daughters ever sell themselves cheaply to a disrespectful person like Judah.
God’s daughters are the jewels in His kingdom. We are the priceless diamonds He purchased. Never sell yourself for a meager earthly sum when Heaven already holds a receipt that says, “Paid In Full.” However, if like Tamar, you have found yourself sitting on the side of life’s road disguised and despairing, with a veil hiding the real you, there’s hope and healing. Our God was watching and protecting His daughter, Tamar just as He watches and protects His girls today who lose their self-respect. And He injects us with His empowering love. As with Tamar, we will find out tomorrow that we too, can stake our self-esteem not in what others say, but in the “seal” of the King of the Universe.
“God made you as you are, in order to use you as He planned.”
S. C. McAuley
On That Road
“Lord, I am on that road to Damascus,
With a past that has hold of me.
I have been blinded by my transgressions,
Will You open my eyes to see?
I am filled with my own accomplishments,
Pride and possessions to name a few
But none of these will matter, Lord
When I open my eyes to You.
Am I worthy of Your message,
Lord? I wonder as I walk
Along that hot, dry road to Damascus
The growing evil in me stalks.
My mind and heart cannot be opened
Until the Holy Spirit draws near
And redirects the walk I’m taking
And, by grace, my Lord appears.
The blinding past I put behind me
And, through faith, I now can see
The chains that bound me on my walk
He has broken, and set me free.”
Dorothy Valcarcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
Dorothy Valcarcel has a 25-year career working with charitable organizations worldwide. Her experiences have taken her into ghettos, orphanages, domestic abuse shelters and food kitchens. The insight she gained, along with her own personal struggle to overcome challenging disabilities sustained in a life-threatening accident, are the catalyst for Transformation Garden - a website designed to encourage women in their walk with Jesus. Dorothy is the author of the soon to be released book, When A Woman Meets Jesus, published by Revell.