“They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony…” Revelation 12:11
Recently, I’ve been preparing to host the IF: Gathering at my church. In preparation, I’ve been thinking about the great importance of women in the Body of Christ meeting together. I’m not talking about always meeting in big put-together conferences. I’m talking about knowing the women in your life who know the real, authentic you. They will call you out, hold you accountable, pray for you, and help you on your walk so that you look more and more like Jesus.
One of my favorite stories in scripture is the story of Rahab in the book of Joshua. She is a prostitute living in the city of Jericho, but is rescued along with her family because of her faithfulness. Yesterday while looking at the lineage of Jesus in Matthew, I realized Ruth is the daughter-in-law of Rahab. Ruth is a Moabite woman who follows her mother-in-law to Bethlehem after the death of her husband. She marries Rahab’s son, Boaz. Scripture doesn’t speak of these women together at all, but of course, my imagination runs wild. If/When these women gathered together, they must have spoken with so much wisdom and faith as they told about the God of Israel and the redemption he brought to their lives. It gives me chills. Did their stories of God’s restoration and grace change other women’s lives in the community? For each woman, God gave a new life. He made a new path when all roads seemed dead. There is no dead end for a God who can raise the dead.
I’ve recently read Elizabeth Oates’ new book Mending Broken Branches, and I can’t rave enough about it. I have known Elizabeth for many years and in a world of so many voices, hers is a trusted voice. Deeply rooted in scripture, she gives wisdom and advice as she tells her own story of brokenness and growing up in a dysfunctional family. Heavy topics such as divorce, trauma, grief, depression, addiction, fear, reconciliation, forgiveness, and more are thoughtfully shared with research and experience. Throughout the book, Elizabeth brings in the stories and experiences of twelve other women who have found forgiveness, healing and restoration from their broken pasts. Hearing other women’s stories and experiences is powerful. Elizabeth says she once felt so alone in what she experienced growing up, but learned later there were many women who had similar experiences and situations. God is always at work in the lives of His people bringing liberation, restoration, forgiveness and wholeness. Elizabeth’s life and the women in this book are examples of this. I am sure many women will find comfort in knowing they are not alone. If you let God’s spirit do the hard work in you, healing and freedom will come through the engagement of this book.
There is great power when women come together in the name of Jesus and share their stories. We truly need each other. (Side note: I strongly believe we need the wisdom and input of everyone in community, but there are times when women gathering alone is valuable.) We live in a world full of expectation and pressure to be perfect at whatever it is we’re doing. In our world of social media, people are usually only seeing what we want them to see. We need people who see our real, authentic self away from filters. Elizabeth explains, “I am broken. You are broken. Even Jesus’ family was broken. We strive for perfection. We try to pretend we are perfect. We might even convince ourselves we are perfect. But we are all- at our core- a mess. We all need a Savior to come alongside us and pour out His love on us.” (MBB, 20) Because we live in a fallen world, we are all broken in some way and in need of God’s grace. In community, we can wrestle with these hard things and give up the image that we’ve got life all figured out. By gathering with other women, I’m confident we will find we’re not alone in our struggles, fears, worries and life’s difficulties. We need sisters who will surround us, support us, walk with us, pray over us, and speak wisdom into our life.
In closing, we can’t forget there is a very real battle going on. In Revelation 12, we are told that we can triumph over the enemy by the word of our testimony. Satan doesn’t want us to live liberated, restored lives. He wants us lonely, defeated, and believing we can’t change. No one said it would be easy. Let’s boldly tell our stories of how God has redeemed us because someone might break free.