I love my husband. I really do. And my Dad? He was my biggest cheerleader. My brother has the most kind servant-heart. So many of the opportunities God has given me have been from incredible men who believed in me. I’m so grateful. But sometimes? Sometimes, I just need to be in the company of women.
Women who choose faith. Who are brave, and who have face challenge head-on. Women who are remarkably normal, and also remarkably alive. Women who change things because they can’t leave them as-is. Women who don’t necessarily think they’re doing anything notable, but do it anyhow. Women who are real, and mess up regularly. Women who aren’t shiny or perfect although they might struggle with wishing they were.
Some of my earliest mentors were Corrie ten Boom, Mother Teresa, Elisabeth Elliott and Amy Carmichael. Not that I knew them in the flesh, but as I read their biographies they became ever so real to me. Like true Mothers of the Faith. I read and re-read these books in my early 20’s. What I found was inspiration, but also relief (depending on the biographer’s commitment to truth-telling). When I found Ruth Tucker’s “Extraordinary Women of Christian History,” I discovered a veritable sampler platter of real-life Mothers. Tidbits and short biographical sketches of imperfect women, sometimes shocking in their imperfection, actually.
I loved what Tucker wrote about Anne-Marie Javouhey (founder of the Sisters of Saint Joseph), “she challenges us in her strong convictions more than in her so-called saintliness.”(page 163) I think this is true for most of the women profiled in the book. In looking at these faith-full women, I’m most convicted by their strong convictions, and surprised by their un-saintliness. None of them, it appears, knew the secret to a perfect life. Not even Hannah Whitall Smith. Their lives were marked by difficult marriages, faith, but also by doubt, strong will, and even “more than a touch of eccentricity.” (p 162) There is nothing new under the sun, friend.
In the pages of this book, I found myself in the company of women from the first century through to the 21st century. Knowing their stories, even in part, I’m reminded to extend grace to the women around me, and to myself. Our imperfection is part of the story we are writing to those around us every day, and for the generations to come. Knowing Jesus in the midst of this imperfect process, and choosing to follow Him in my own imperfect way with strong conviction, is enough.
I love the closing words of this book, which prompt me again to re-examine the twenty centuries of women profiled.
“Should we be surprised when women of faith have feet of clay? For too long good Christian biographers have tried to convince us that these women were mostly sweet ladies, more than that, saints and heroines…. Indeed, messy spirituality permeates the Bible and the record of Christian history.
As such, these women offer road maps and signal detours on our own journey – a journey that looks backward to help us avoid the rough terrain ahead. But through their sacrifice and self-denial and passion, they also offer the inspiration of mountain vistas and the sparkling energy of river rapids.”
May we be found in the company of such women, and may our stories be written alongside theirs as we imperfectly follow our perfect God, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
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