“Can we talk about the word?” Emilia says. Zahra sits, writing in her brown, leather-covered notebook in Central Park at a round, white, steel table. Her yellow dress dances across her crossed legs as she slightly moves, habitually turning her ankle, which makes her gold sandals bounce. Beside the notebook is half a bottle of water and a peach. The day is kind and warm. The sun is shining bright. Several hummingbirds hover near a tree that cast its shadow over the small white table and Zahra. Zahra had been walking for some time before she grew tired and decided to rest. Now she writes, I need you here with me to –
“Can we talk about the word?” Emilia, again, says.
Zahra stops writing, pressing her pen on the word “to” and looks up. Emilia stands, wearing a black and white dress, slightly scuffed black shoes with small heels, and a huge white hat, from which her tiny face pokes from underneath. Her eyes are angelic and her warm smile stretches gently across her face. She holds a huge white leather Bible with gold-trimmed pages.
Zahra smiles, closes her notebook and pushes it aside. “Yes,” she says, her voice soft.
“Okay,” Emilia says, her eyes wide and stunned, as she was expecting Zahra to say “no” because most people do. She hurriedly walks toward Zahra. “Hi, my name is Emilia. I am from the Church of Christ,” she says with her hand stretched out.
“Hi, I’m Zahra,” Zahra says, shaking Emilia’s hand.
“Have you heard of the Church of Christ?”
“No,” Zahra says. I’m visiting. I am from Washington, D.C.”
“Oh, how long are you here?”
“Just a few days, Zahra says and scoots to the side so that Emilia can sit beside her.
Emilia sits, places her Bible on the steel table, and opens it slowly. “Do you know the Lord?” she says, her eyes low and gleaming.
“I do,” Zahra says.
Emilia smiles. “Good. Did you know that in the original Bible there were two Gods? One was a male and the other was a female?”
“No. I have never heard of that before,” Zahra says, focused, her eyelashes twitching in anticipation.
“We know the male God, but we do not know the female one. Her name was Asherah. She was written out of the Bible; nonetheless, in some versions, traces of her still remain.” Emilia flips through the thin gold-trimmed pages and stops at Jeremiah 44:25. “Can we read this together?” she says and places her small manicured finger with bright red polish on a sentence, which read, “thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, as follows: ‘As for you and your wives, you have spoken with your mouths and fulfilled it with your hands, saying, ‘We will certainly perform our vows that we have vowed, to burn sacrifices to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her.’ Go ahead and confirm your vows, and certainly perform your vows!”.
Zahra looks at the page in disbelief. “Wow.”
“Here is another scripture,” Emilia says and turns to 1 Kings 11:5, which reads, “For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites.” Zahra looks at the page and puts her hand over her slightly opened mouth. “Here is another one,” Emilia says and, again, flips through the pages. She stops at Deuteronomy 16:21, which reads, “You shall not plant for yourself an Asherah of any kind of tree beside the altar of the Lord your God, which you shall make for yourself.” Zahra again looks at the pages, her eyes wide. She again shakes her head.
“You see,” Emilia says, blinking excitedly. “There was a Female God. She was written out by men to portray one supreme male God.”
Zahra stares at the open Bible, its pages slightly fluttering as a cool breeze glides and moves throughout the park. “May I?”
Zahra takes the Bible and reads the passage again with her hand on her chin. She turns the page and turns it back, shaking her head. “Fascinating.”
“It is, isn’t it? This is one of the things that we often discuss at the Church of Christ.”
“That is amazing.”
“Do you think you would be interested in joining us while you are in town,” Emilia says, “we would love to have you.”
“Do you accept LGBTQIA people?” Zahra says.
Emilia’s face tightens and her angelic eyes turn to stone. “No, they are not of God.”
“We are,” Zahra says.
Emilia shakes her head. “You are not.”
“May I ask you a question?” Zahra says. Emilia stares, frowning so hard that deep lines form in her face like bent leather.
“What is the difference between religion and spirituality?” Zahra says. Emilia still stares without saying a word. “There are so many denominations in the world and all believe that its God is the supreme God. This is religion,” Zahra says, gesticulating with her hands. Emilia presses her red lips together and clenches her jaw. “This creates separatism,” Zahra continues, “Rather, spirituality is a close personal relationship with God, irrespective of religion. I am spiritual, and I have a close relationship with God. When I was a child, I prayed to God about my orientation. I told him that if what I felt was not of him, to take it away from me. He did not; rather, to my surprise, he assured me that he loves me and I am who he made me be.
“No,” Emilia says, shaking her head with scorn. “The word says it is wrong,” she says pointing to the still open Bible, its gold-trimmed pages reflecting off the sun which makes it look as if it is emanating light.
“You mean the same word that you just proved was rewritten?” Zahra says. Emilia closes the Bible, snatches it from the table, and holds it in her arms as if it is a child. Zahra looks at the Bible and then at Emilia. “God is alive, so why do we argue over the word as if he is not?”
Emilia hurriedly rushes down the street, her small heels clicking as she walks. Zahra watches her as she makes her way to a small path and stops at a pond. Zahra takes a sip of her water, a bite of her peach, and opens her notebook.
“Can we talk about the word?” She hears Emilia say to a man who is walking up the small path.
“No,” the man says and hurriedly passes her with his hands in his pockets.
guide me in all my life and all my days, God, Zahra writes, finishing her sentence as her page flutters and the hummingbirds fly away.
27 Bible Verses about Serving Asherah, bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Serving-Asherah.
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