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What Women Really Want

Bible study teacher Lisa Harper gets real about love, life, and what we're truly yearning for.

"There's just something about my black leather jacket and Harley-Davidson motorcycle that makes minivan-driving moms frown in disapproval," says Lisa Harper with a laugh. "The funny thing is, I'm usually riding to a Bible study!"

Lisa doesn't mind shaking things up a bit. A seasoned author and in-demand speaker known for warmth, comedic wit, and skill in communicating biblical truth, Lisa's even shattered some "church lady" stereotypes by kicking off a women's retreat with a motorcycle ride up the center aisle of a church sanctuary. A shrinking violet she definitely is not.

But shaking up stereotypes or making the big entrance isn't what revs Lisa up. Her driving passion? Helping women discover the Bible she loves is far from boring, inexplicable, or irrelevant.

"I've met women who think Scripture's about as exciting as the phone book. Yet they feel they should read the Bible, so they sleepwalk through it or struggle with guilt over it," she reveals. As a result, Lisa—former women's ministries director for Focus on the Family, where she developed Renewing the Heart women's conferences—put her storytelling gifts, Bible knowledge, and trademark humor to work to create On the Road with Lisa Harper (Tyndale), a series of Bible-study books with interactive DVDs. Rich with pop-culture references and historical background, the first in the book series explores Hebrews; the second delves into the Old Testament Minor Prophets. This month her third releases: What Every Girl Wants: A Portrait of Perfect Love & Intimacy in the Song of Solomon—territory, she's quick to point out, singles like her often don't wade into and pastors don't often teach on "lest people blush!"

"Most of us are more comfortable appeasing this Darth Vader image we have of God because we read the Bible as a religious rulebook rather than as an amazing love story."

"My hope is women will put down People and pick up the Bible, that they'll see how pertinent, compelling, and personal it really is," Lisa explains.

TCW caught up with Lisa at home in Nashville during a break in her busy travel schedule and seminary coursework (she's working toward her Masters of Theology) to hear what she has to say about a woman's relationship to God.

You've raised some eyebrows by riding a motorcycle.

A lot of women tease me that they're always nice to bikers now because they're afraid one might be me! [Laughs.] There's this stereotype of what a Christian woman should look like—and it doesn't include leather and Harleys. It has more to do with baking casseroles or being peppy or …

Or being a size 2?

Right! You have to wear the right outfit in the right size, or you really aren't fitting the bill. But I bet we'll be stunned by how many people in glory won't necessarily be the ones with the perfect haircut and perfect outfit!

Not long ago, a woman new to a Bible study I taught told me afterwards, "I'm so glad you're teaching this study. All the women here are so pretty and perfect that I just didn't fit. Then you walked in."


As soon as she said that, she gasped, because she didn't mean to give me a left-handed compliment. But I thought, It's true. Because I don't appear to have it as together as the other women in this study, I make her feel welcome. That's the biggest compliment I've received in a long time!

We women are so hard on ourselves. We get so preoccupied with our culture's standards that we don't take the time to ponder the fact God isn't more pleased with us if we're a size 2. He sees us through the rose-colored glasses of Jesus—and thinks we're absolutely beautiful.

I love the word marinating. We need to marinate in the truth of who God is and how he feels about us. That's why I wrote this study on the Old Testament book Song of Solomon.

Was it awkward writing on overtly sensual passages?

A friend's husband asked me why I would write on it, implying, What's a single girl like you doing writing on this erotic poetry?

How did you answer?

I said it's like a dieter standing outside Krispy Kreme watching donuts go through the glaze machine! [Laughs.]

But when you study Song of Solomon from a Christ-centered perspective, it's about the intimacy available to us in Jesus. We tend to forget the gospel is about a supernatural, mind-blowing relationship with the Lord. Most of us are more comfortable appeasing this Darth Vader image we have of God because we read the Bible as a religious rulebook rather than as an amazing love story. Yet in Song of Solomon 4:9, God says through Solomon, "You have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes."

Think about what that verse says: The God of the universe is enamored with us. That's huge. We wouldn't say this in Bible study, but somewhere in our crooked human hearts we assume God loves us because it's his job. He's compelled because he's the Creator and we're the created.

But God delights in us. Yes, God is holy, and we're to revere him. But God's behavior toward us isn't reserved, rigid, formal. He condescends to make himself available to us. He runs toward us. He longs for us to come to him with affection and abandon. And he wants us to find our satisfaction in him.

Is that satisfaction possible?

I think the more time we spend in God's presence, the more we become wonderfully aware of his love.

I recently read a book called Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave by Edward Welch. It deals with every addiction imaginable. I'll never forget one thing the author wrote: Ultimately all excessive behavior is a disorder of worship. That's one reason we're so hard on ourselves—we worship at the altar of other women's approval. We want to appear pretty and smart, to have perfect hair, and have all the answers at Bible study so others will pat us on the back. Well, we aren't supposed to seek their approval. We're supposed to dance before the altar of God's approval.

What should we know about that approval?

That busyness isn't a spiritual gift. I really wrestle with that. God's teaching me my default setting shouldn't be stuck on "go."

I love Zephaniah 3:17, "He will rejoice over you with singing." Sadly, I've missed many of the lyrics God sings over me because I assumed being busy juggling so many things pleases God. Years went by where I didn't hear God's delight because I was listening to different music in my head.

What do you mean?

I grew up in a great church, but it definitely emphasized conforming to religious standards. I was a believer, but I knew God more as Abba Father than as Lover of my soul.

My father left when I was young, and my mother remarried. When I was in college, my younger brother developed a substance-abuse problem. I watched my mom transform from a fill-in-the-blanks kind of Christian to one whose relationship with God developed a rawness and authenticity to it. That began my process of longing for more authenticity in my walk with the Lord.

Did your parents' divorce impact your view of God?

God's redeemed my relationship with my dad in incredible ways. But because he left when I was a little girl, abandonment issues affected my relationship with God early on. I thought, I'd better be a good girl or he might leave.

Today, God's immutability brings me so much comfort. God does not change. Even when the Israelites were such stinkers and he disciplined them, he never abandoned them. I can't tell you how much that means to me as a woman. God won't leave me, even on my worst days.

I was reminded of this not long ago when I went through a painful breakup.

That must have been excruciating.

It was awful. One of my biggest fears was if someone broke my heart, the pieces wouldn't come back together again. But ultimately, I hadn't been trusting the Lord with my heart. Despite having my greatest fear—having my heart filleted—happen, I discovered God really is faithful.


You know how sometimes you'll read something you've read a hundred times before in Scripture and all of a sudden it pops off the page and you get it? I keep having these "a-ha moments" about who God is. And I've had situations involving my home and career where he tangibly took care of me.

Would you like to be married someday?

Of course! But at 42, I don't have too many dreamy ideals about the knight in shining armor. I tease and say I've been set up with everybody from grandpas to gropers. [Smiles.]

I still want to be a mom. There are times when I'm a big whiny baby and complain, God, didn't you see me the day you gave out the gift of marriage and children? But I do know this: Most days, I love my life. I'm not eager to be married; I am eager to be in the middle of God's will, whatever that looks like.

The peace I have is the peace God gives me. I encourage women to run to the Lord with their lack of contentment. God meets us where we're broken. When our heart feels like it's been run over by a Mack truck, he brings comfort.

What do you want to accomplish most?

I long for women—from Nashville to Nairobi—to focus more on their relationship with God than with being appropriately religious.

Theologian Francis Schaeffer once said, "Our calling is to be not only a faithful bride but also a bride in love." That's what I want—to be the bride in love. I don't want to be faithful only because I've memorized a bunch of facts about the Lord. I want to be so absolutely in love with Jesus that it permeates every facet of my being. I want to reflect the gospel as best I can in this crooked jar of clay.

For more information, visit www.lisaontheroad.com.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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