|Helen, Marie, Ann, Inez, Ruth, Mavis… These were my grandma’s girlfriends, present in my earliest memories. They all held me the first week I lived. I cannot remember my grandma without them — in her kitchen, playing dominos, vacationing at her Colorado cabin, attending our graduation ceremonies, bringing the swankiest gifts to our weddings and baby showers. Their friendship spanned sixty-plus years around card tables, porches, Formica countertops, and Sanka. Their weathered hands smoothed our hair, rubbed our backs, wiped our tears, and breaded our chicken and fried it in lard.
Judy, Rita, Sandy, Debi, Prissy, Cheryl, Sharon, Melissa… These were my mom’s girlfriends. They also comprise virtually every childhood memory. We grew up at their houses. I can picture every room in their homes — our hide-and-seek nooks, that one hallway we eavesdropped through the vent, the backyards where we peeled tons of boiled crawfish, the kitchens stocked with Ovaltine and Tab. All kids belonged to all moms and they group-parented us, a loose term for basically keeping us alive back then. These women changed our diapers, drove us to homecoming, and cried at our weddings. Their collective laughter is like a childhood soundtrack.
I grew up with so many extraordinary, ordinary mothers and grandmothers.
It is probably why I value my girlfriends so much, although I didn’t know to credit Mom and Grandma until later. In my world, this was how grown-ups did life. You and your best friends handled every matter life slung at you. You jointly raised a bunch of kids, and once they were grown, you still had each other plus an impending slew of grandbabies, sons- and daughters-in-law, and clean homes for the first time in twenty-five years.
Women have been amazing to me my entire life.
Spiritually, I grew up with mixed messages regarding a woman’s worth. Church taught that women were great in their place, but that place was pretty narrow. My mothers and grandmothers were incredibly capable and smart. I never understood their small place in the kingdom when they occupied such enormous space in my development. Their collective skill set was stunning: they were teachers, entrepreneurs, business-owners, courtroom professionals, realtors, administrators. They led at home and work, but I didn’t see their authority translate to church.
I wish they’d had the permission and influence God is restoring to my generation. I mourn the small platform for their wisdom, because the kingdom needed a larger dose of their leadership. As it is, we are daughters and granddaughters of incredible women, and we get to rise up and carry on their legacy. We stand on their shoulders, and not one modern woman would lead today without the conversations they shaped and the changes they forged. With courage and resolve, our mothers and grandmothers moved the needle forward for women.
God is unveiling women around the world. He always has and continues to work through women and girls, who are half of His church. They are, like men and boys, His image bearers. They are also, like men and boys, gifted, empowered, smart, and anointed.
The underground church in China would wane without women. Women disseminate the gospel in the Middle East under threat of life and limb. Women lead bottom-up social movements combating poverty and pioneer top-down legislation to the same end. They are doing quiet work and loud work, onstage and behind the curtain. There has never been a better time to be a woman!
Although historically oppressed, women have always maintained a dignity that shall certainly be eternally rewarded. The women of the world are brave and responsible. When a woman earns money, it will more likely be spent on her own health and safety, as well as that of her children. For every dollar she makes, she will spend eighty cents on her family’s health and well-being (when in contrast, men only spend about thirty cents on their families and are more prone to wasting the rest). Women have held communities together for centuries.
What I am trying to say is this: I think women are amazing. They always have been.
We are such a blessed generation. We don’t have to choose between gentleness and authority, a tension fought in secular feminism. We can have both. We get the victories of past generations, plus the hope of ours. We can provide hospitality and declare the Word of God, nurture our households and embrace our gifts, set the table of communion and the table of theology. I am so grateful my daughters see women leading courageously. They won’t battle a less-than status or suffocate their gifts. They’ll just run.
Sister, come near and listen: You are smart and capable, strong and wise. You are an overcomer, a prized member of the body of Christ. You have so much to offer. You can gather your girlfriend tribe and raise kids together, providing the happiest childhood they ever complained about. You can crack open your Bible and preach good news for the poor. You can model faithful friendship around your table, and you can stretch your hand across oceans to mamas everywhere. You can do small work. You can do big work. You are so able in Jesus, so beloved, so permitted.
If anyone has made you feel invisible or less-than, write a new narrative on your heart. The Bible was used to subjugate women for centuries, but the New Testament reveals women leading the church, prophesying, teaching, and co-laboring with men. Let’s flourish under Paul’s instruction:
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. — 2 Timothy 2:15
You are accepted by God.
You are a worker.
You have no need to be ashamed.
You are a truth-handler.
You are a sanctioned, honorable operative in the splendid task of loving God and people. You have a role. Your place is secure. If not you, who? Who else will deliver hope to your people? Who else will embrace the weary and lonely? Who else will teach the good Word and claim its promises? Who else will laugh at the days to come with courage? Who else will raise your children in strength? Who else will take responsibility for your people and your place?
We will together. We will mother all our children and grandmother all our grandchildren. We will cheer each other on, refusing to speak doubt into our gifts. When you are scared, I will declare, “You can do this.” When you whisper a dream, I’ll holler through a bullhorn that you are brave and wonderful and important…. We lift each other’s heads and handle truth for one another.
It’s time. Don’t wait for permission; we’ve already been given it. Lead, sister. You have authority to use your home as a sanctuary, your hands as tools of healing, your voice as an instrument of hope, your gifts as channels of incredible power.
If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. — Romans 12:6-8
Let’s do this. Let’s fulfill the good work we’ve been commissioned to. Silence any voice that whispers “not enough” and stand in truth as an approved worker. You are. Jesus made you so. If God surveyed the cross and declared it finished, then it wasn’t sufficient for everyone except you. If Jesus covered it all, then He covered it all…. As God told Peter:
Do not call anything impure that God has made clean. — Acts 10:15
Okay then. That is pretty straightforward instruction.
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If you need to deal, then deal. Wrangle whatever holds you down or holds you back. You are too vital to lose years to regret or shame or insecurity or fear. We are not slaves to those masters; Jesus saw to that. Face your issues with courage, sister, because truth and love win, and you have both those cards to play.
Ask God: What lies do I believe about myself? What lies do I believe about You? The Holy Spirit is an incredible leader and healer. Don’t shove it down; lay your junk on the table and deal with it. Address the stuff. Forgive, release, acknowledge, confront, feel the feelings, let something go, believe the truth, whatever you need to do. Then dust your hands off and get ready to go.
I think we’re ready, aren’t we? I hear it. The dreams, the visions, the excitement. I am flabbergasted by women everywhere. They are overcoming, enduring, outlasting, shining, leading, risking, showing up, speaking up, standing up. They are chasing down dreams right in the middle of living their lives. I am regularly amazed. This generation is choosing to lift each other up rather than tear down, finding ways to love God and people across generations, cultures, countries, and obstacles. Women are teaching with authority that blows my hair back. We are doing hard things in invisible trenches. We are saying yes when saying no would be easier. We are saying no when saying yes would be easier. We are taking responsibility for our global sisters because enough is enough; we won’t sit idly while people are abused, trafficked, sold, and abandoned.
If women indeed hold up half the sky, then let’s raise our arms high.
Let’s show up for our own lives.
Take all the hard parts — the failures, the losses, the wounds — and give them to Jesus for glory. He makes magic with those, I tell you. Those scars are a gift; they say, “See, I’ve been there, and here I am still standing and you will too.” They become badges of honor, agents of healing.
This really is your one wild and precious life. You matter so much. You are writing a good story for your children. Your community and church need you, your neighbors and family need you, God adores you and Jesus is obsessed with you. Here we are, your community of women running this race together, proud of you, moved by you. We’ll stumble; that’s part of the course, but we’ll leave no woman behind. Our generation will cross the finish line having loved God and people with all our might. We’ll have imperfect lives to offer, sure, but I dream of heaven, seeing millions of folks loved by our hands, where hopefully we’ll hear: “Well done, good and faithful servants. You sure were fun to watch.”
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Excerpted from For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker, copyright 2015 Jen Hatmaker. Used with permission from Thomas Nelson.
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I love every single word of this. Simply put, I heart Jen Hatmaker and cannot wait to begin our Book Club on For the Love next month.
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If you’ve been knocked around by life, challenges, demeaning circumstances, and difficult people, and you need to be reminded of your value in the Kingdom of God and every area of your influence, if you need a reminder that you’re brave, wonderful, important, capable, worthy, beautiful, and so loved, read this again, sister! And, then, dust your hands off and get ready to go wherever the Lord leads you! Come join the conversation on our blog. We would love to hear your thoughts. We would love to engage you in encouraging one another! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full