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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Worthiness of Women (Part I)

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be a woman. Burdened with womanhood, burdened with the worthiness of women. Traveling to Africa on a mission trip to speak to young girls, dealing with my own levels of heartbreak, and sitting through a weekend's worth of the Ignite Justice conference can put some heavy things on your heart.

Can I say this without sounding feminist or angry or somehow anti-men? Because we're all created in the image of God and we're all broken and we're all in need of Someone to save us. We're all in this dance together, this process to Christ. 
But being a woman is hard. 
Being a young girl is hard, a teenage girl, a girl in her 20's, 30's, an adult woman. It's all hard. 

There's a global perspective to being a woman that I haven't always seen. There's a shame there that I haven't ever known. Speaking to 400 middle and high school aged girls in a school in Rwanda about their bodies and their God given worth as women, it suddenly became clear that the message of worthiness and the message of "you matter" meant more to these girls than I'd realized. And my sister, a missionary teacher in the Congo, always said that at their school, they always believed that "if you empower a woman, you empower a nation." Can you believe that? The value of that? You as a woman, God has a plan for you!

Working with teenagers at my church here in the United States, in Fort Mill, South Carolina, the girls face the pressures and the friends and the images of beauty and the images of what their bodies should look like and the boys, always the boys. There are so many messages, so many ways to communicate a message. Some of us have opportunities here that maybe all girls and women don't, but with all that's worldly (and there's a lot out there), there's that same need of that Gospel message, that same empowerment. Do our girls know that? Do they know that it doesn't matter what they look like, that if a boy's not ready or doesn't like them or told them he made a mistake, that never is and never will be a reflection of the wonderfully worthy and incredibly unique self they were made in the image of God to be? 

Just thinking out loud. It's not easy. Looking globally, looking at the issues that our women face, looking at the girls in our backyard. These girls are different, so different. Different families, different upbringings and backgrounds, different loves and passions, different scars and trials and fears. But these girls are the same. There's the need for the affirmation of Christ, for the restoring of dignity, for the girls in the slums, the girls in the brothels, the girls in our classes and in our churches and on our streets, for the unwanted and the abandoned and the left behind. There's a great need for us to partner and band together and shout loud BUT YOU ARE WORTHY. There are big things our girls are facing. But Beloved, that's what you are. There's so much strength in the brokenness. Power in empathy.

God values women. He created women. Jesus died for women. The Scriptural message of the worthiness of women is that they are loved so far and deep and wide. Mistakes made and pressures faced and relational hurts and pains - they were all absorbed by the power of the cross. Jesus came to make all that new. Those girls in Rwanda in the aftermath of that genocide, the girls in China, the girls in the United States having abortions and dealing with break ups and facing the pressures of identity. All facing the pressures of identity. What's the identity of a woman?

Jesus truly believed everyone had value. He really valued His creation. My friend Marri writes in her book, "He looked people in the eye, saw down to the deepest, most hidden corners of their soul, and He loved them. Not a pity love, or a duty love. He truly believed they were valuable."

And maybe that empowering of a woman happens when you take a girl by the face and you look her in the eye (in Rwanda, in the Congo, in Fort Mill, in your neighborhood) and you tell her - "you are worthy. you are wonderful. you are loved." Over and over again. Worthy. Wonderful. Loved.