She wasn’t still a Playboy Bunny when she joined. But she wasn’t yet a regular Bible Study girl, either. She was climbing from one world into the other. And sometimes that’s tricky.
Even though Robyn Dykstra is my friend, I hadn’t heard her story before I read her newly released memoir: The Widow Wore Pink. I never would have pictured her as a Playboy Bunny. I only knew her as a Christian speaker, a godly woman, and a kind friend.
It was so interesting (and also funny!) to gain her perspective, as she segued from her atheist/feminist/intellectual background into the world I’m far more familiar with–Bible study and church ladies.
Here’s an excerpt from one of my favorite parts of the book:
Jake’s head was on my shoulder, he was dry, fed and burped, well on his way to sleep. I had one hand on his perfectly shaped head and the other supporting his little bottom. Moonlight was cascading through the bedroom window, refracting off the snow and lighting the warm room in the quiet house. How does a woman like me end up here? I wondered. I have a husband who loves me, a fine house, and a healthy baby boy.
It was exactly then that I heard the voice of God and he said, “Robyn, what are you going to tell your son about me?” The masculine voice spoke gently but with complete authority. There was no condemnation, but there was a question–and an answer was required.
I stopped rocking. I didn’t know what I was going to tell my son about God–because I didn’t know much. What if Jake asked questions about God when Jay wasn’t home? I didn’t want to look stupid to my boy. Despite Jay’s imperfections and his unhealthy addictions, he had been raised in a Christian home, he knew Jesus, he read his Bible. The only time I called on the name of Jesus Christ was if I stubbed my toe or if I was so furious with Jay that I wanted someone or something bigger than me to smite him.
I know what to do if I want to learn something new. Either buy a book or take a class. I opted to take a class so I could follow the lead of some God guru to the answers I would need for Jake’s questions and God’s inquiry.
I called Jay’s church, the one I pretended to attend when his parents visited, and told them I was looking for some information about God so when our son asked questions, I wouldn’t sound like an idiot. The nice lady on the phone thought I might do well in a Bible study. The church offered one for ladies on Tuesday mornings, complete with child care for Jake. That sounded good to me–there was probably a lot of stuff about God in the Bible. So I signed up for it over the phone. That the church called it Ladies’ Bible study prickled me to no end, since the study designed for males was for men, but the female’s study was for ladies. I had been trained to interpret this as an obvious slur implying the inferiority of women. But I was desperate. I had taken a peek at Jay’s Bible and knew I would need assistance. It was such a big book, and I didn’t want to waste time on the unnecessary or uninteresting parts; the Bible study, I assumed, would focus on the most relevant parts of the Bible. There was no cost for the class, and the child care fee was negligible–a good thing, since our home discretionary income was a faint memory.
“What do I need to bring?” I asked the woman.
“Just a pencil and a Bible,” she said. “All the curriculum is provided.”
I was so pleased with myself. That night at dinner I said, “Guess what I did today?”
“I don’t know honey–what did you do?”
“I signed up for a Bible study at your church.”
On the outside, Jay was calm and collected as he said, “Isn’t that wonderful!” On the inside, I’m sure he was doing the happy dance of all happy dances.
“I need a Bible,” I said, “and I don’t want to use yours because you’ve ruined it. It’s all marked up. Besides, I looked at it and it’s full of thees and thous. Do you have one in American English?” Bless his heart and his ability to keep a poker face; he kept his composure and told me I should take $20.00 to the Christian bookstore and pick out a new Bible…
…Armed with my new Bible, a fine point pen, and a yellow highlighter, off to class I went. I would love to tell you it was wonderful, but it wasn’t.
I did not fit in.
The women in the group looked like they belonged in magazines. Their hair was done and their cars were clean. their clothes were dry clean only, and those who wore jeans had sharp creases pressed into them. Nobody else ever slipped and cussed. None of them consulted the table of contents to find Proverbs, and they all knew John the Baptist didn’t write any of the chapters titled John. Except they didn’t call them chapters–they were books. (The Bible, it turns out, is a collection of sixty-six books bound together in one big book. Who knew?) The women in the group knew there was a Joseph in the Old Testament and another Joseph in the New Testament. Both Josephs are principle figures, but in entirely different stories! Who could keep all this stuff straight? They kept telling me how creative God was–well, couldn’t God come up with unique names for the key players?
I was very confused. Each week, we were given homework assignments to prepare us for the lesson. I tried to do my homework; I laboriously looked up the Bible reference in the table of contents, found the page, chapter and verse, read it, read the question again, reread the verse–but it rarely made sense to me. I would get so aggravated that I’d hurl my Bible, sending it scooting across the floor and smacking the wall. I would scratch big question marks all over my homework in frustration and highlight chunks of the lesson for further discussion in class.
I challenged everyone.
I questioned everything.
“Where did you get that answer?”
“Why is that important?”
Weeks into class, Louise, one of the women in the group, called me at home. She was a sweet thing, maybe ten or fifteen years older than me with teenage children and a Southern accent. Those Southern women intimidate me–they’re so cordial and calm. “Robyn, honey,” she said, as if my name was now four syllables long, “are you having trouble with the Bible lessons?” She elongated the first syllable of Bible until it sounded more like a short A than a long I.
I ignored the slaughter of my mother’s English language and aditted that I was, indeed, having trouble with the Bible lessons. “I have always been a good student,” I whined, “but I’m having problems assimilating and and regurgitating this stuff. How can a text that’s been made into a comic book be so perplexing?”
She was entirely sympathetic–no big surprise, being Southern and all. “Well, I’ve been thinking about that,” she drawled, “and I was wondering if it would be okay with you if I came over to your house every week while your baby naps and do the lesson with you–to help prepare you for the class.”
“That would make you my new best friend,” I said.
* * * * * * *
Honest. Compelling. Funny. Interesting. If you’ve ever been an outsider, trying to consider the perspective of someone with either an Atheist/feminist/intellectual background or someone with deep, personal faith in God, Robyn gives you a window into both. Her transformation from Playboy Bunny to Bible study leader whose only hope is in God is gradual, beautiful, funny, and sweet.