On Saturday, Jan 21st Women’s Marches were held in more than 500 US cities and were attended by at least 3.3. million people. Crowd estimates are still trickling in, but political scientists are already saying that last week, we may have witnessed the largest day of demonstrations in American history.
The marches covered a full spectrum of issues including gender equality, racial injustice, immigration and health care issues, protection of the natural environment, and freedom of religion, to name just a few.
And whether you supported all or some or none of the views of those marching, you can’t deny that there were a significant number of people (at least 3.3 million) that were willing to step out of their normal routine, their convenience, and their comfort zones to make sure their voice was heard, to do something in our current times in the hopes of leaving their mark on what will one day be called history…
I believe people want to do good. I believe every human being is born wanting to make a difference, wanting to do something extraordinary, wanting to leave their mark on the world for the better.
And for those of us who are actively following Jesus, it’s not just a desire, but our mission.
I look around at our world, and yes, I see injustice. I see racism. I see pride. I see corruption. I see greed. I see hatred. I see pain. Sometimes, I feel the pain personally. And other times, I see others around me trying to make sense of their own pain or overcome their own pain or even protect themselves and those they love from future pain.
But I don’t believe that pain should be the end of anyone’s story. Jesus was a master at meeting people in their pain, and bringing healing to their pain. He came to the defense of the adulterous woman in her pain, challenging her religious accusers that whoever is without sin should cast the first stone. He reached out His hand and touched the unclean leper in his pain so that he could experience healing. He gathered the all too easily dismissed and taken advantage of children in their pain and said that these are the greatest in the kingdom. He wept with those who mourned the death of Lazarus, joining in their pain, before raising Lazarus back to life. And Jesus endured the excruciating pain of the cross and the weight of all sin so that our fate would need not be eternal pain, but everlasting life. Jesus knows pain. And He never ran from the pain of others; in fact, it would seem as if He was drawn to it.
Ironically, the same weekend of the Women’s March where over 3 million gathered together to voice their own pain and the pain of others, I finished reading a book titled: 7 WOMEN AND THE SECRET OF THEIR GREATNESS by Christian biographer Eric Metaxas. Like Jesus, all 7 of the women chronicled in this book seemed to be drawn to the pain of others. They didn’t ignore the injustices of their day, and they certainly didn’t run from them. And in the process, they became undeniable heroes.
In a day and age when so many in our nation gathered under the name “Women’s March”, we must ask ourselves: what does it mean to be a heroic woman today? This book is an exploration of this very question. It looks to the examples of the past to see what could be in our today. We can and should learn from history, and when it comes to the example of each of these extraordinary women, I would hope that in studying their lives, history would repeat itself in our own stories. Because today, perhaps more than ever, we can learn a thing or two from these women.
These women lived in different centuries, all well before the term gender equality was even a discussion, and they weren’t remarkable because they were the first to do what a man had already done; no, they were remarkable because they did what no one had done before.
They lived in different centuries, all grew up in very different cultures and had different upbringing, economic status and levels of education. Joan of Arc was an illiterate teenage girl. Susanna Wesley was a stay at home mom. Hannah Moore was a distinguished poet and playwright. St. Maria of Paris was a twice divorced woman turned nun who drank, smoked cigars, and always seemed a bit disheveled. Corrie Ten Boom was an unmarried youth worker. Rosa Parks was an overworked woman tired of sitting at the back of the bus. And Mother Teresa was a woman who lived most of her life in a room smaller than most people’s closets, and whose frail demure shocked all who met her.
And yet, when you read this book and examine their lives a bit more closely, you can’t help but grow an admiration and a reverence for each of these women. At times, I smiled at their quirks because somehow I felt a strange sisterly bond with them. Other times, I cried at their grace under pressure and their loving acts amid the greatest of evils. I applauded with affirmation the many times they defied the cultural norms of their day, the religious mindsets of their time, and the long existing limitations they forcefully broke through with patience and endurance.
As a woman today wanting to take a stand against injustice without compromising my convictions, as a woman wanting my voice to matter without having to belittle or bully my way to be heard, as a woman wanting to help women experience the same freedoms as men while maintaining honor towards men, as a woman who wants to combat hate not with more hate but with more love, as a woman who is sick and tired of being sick and tired of the oppression and mistreatment of others but not wanting my voice to be misunderstood or misrepresented, I struggle to know what to do.
I know racism is not a thing of the past, but a current crisis. But what do I do? I know that women don’t often get afforded the same opportunities or pay in the work force as men. But what do I do? I know that cruel and unconstitutional treatment still takes place in our prison systems today. But what do I do? I know that women in other parts of the world are still treated, at best, like cattle. But what do I do? I know that homelessness is a present reality for some. But what do I do? And I know that many I encounter every single day of my life are experiencing loneliness and abuse and depression and rejection and addiction and I want to do something, but what do I do?
Each of these women lived lives that give me answers. They remind me that the best thing that I can ever do is to do good in the name of Jesus. They urge me not to be overwhelmed by the bad I see in the world, but to confront the bad within, and to simply love those around me. They challenge me not to be easily offended or shaken up, but to faithfully care for others, to keep showing up each day to serve those around me. They compel me to live humbly, and to trust Jesus radically. They provoke me to think not of my own interests, but the interests of others, to think beyond my lifetime to create a beautiful legacy of mercy and justice to pass on to future generations. They encourage me to be brave, to be bold, to be unrelenting in my pursuit of God’s will. They also warn me that to be heroic I must say goodbye to what is comfortable and convenient to embrace what is difficult, dangerous, and at times, seemingly impossible. And above all, they command me to look to Jesus and not merely the political voices, the public opinion, or even the religious elite of the day for direction and guidance.
I highly recommend this book. And not just for women to read, but for all of us to read. We need the costly wisdom and enduring bravery of these women of faith to fuel our faith today. We need to be reminded that throughout history, the world has cried out for justice and God has responded by bringing us servants. These women served Jesus and others, and their humble service ended wars, sparked movements, abolished slavery, rescued countless lives, and gained unprecedented victories for civil rights. And perhaps most importantly, they each showed our world a revolutionary and pure expression of Christ’s love.
May we read. May we learn. And may we do the same.