I love being a woman. Well, let me rephrase that…I love being a woman most of the time ;) Growing up, I did all the things little girls do, from dressing up to taking care of my dolls. Living on a small farm with four siblings - two of which were boys - gave me plenty of shots at building huts, playing war games, and catching fish. The phrase “you can't do that because you’re a girl” was totally foreign to me.
Much has happened since those early years. The little girl who thought that the sky was her limit has grown into a woman who needs to be reminded who she is, that she is created in God’s image, filled with His Spirit, and that she has a destiny to fulfill in this world.
Women throughout history have been told who they are and what they can and can't do. You don’t always hear those voices audibly, but their impact is deeply felt with the consequences clearly seen.
There are many women who consciously or subconsciously believe that they aren't good enough as women. In fact, they believe that in order to become fully human they need to act like men, to be "one of the guys.” I can't tell you how tragic believing this lie is! We don't need more masculinity in the world, nor in the church. Instead, we need a healthy balance of male and female representation, masculinity and femininity in all spheres of life, including leadership. We need daring, confident women who are unapologetically female and go wherever the Spirit leads them, fulfilling the dreams God has given them. I know it's sounds dramatic, but I believe that the survival of humanity and the church depends on strong, godly women who embrace who they are and what they are called to, and take their designated place next to strong, godly men.
I just watched a series on Netflix called Designated Survivor. In this series, a man who is a member of the US government is appointed to be the “designated survivor” during the State of the Union. After an attack on Capitol Hill, the entire government is wiped out and he becomes the most powerful man in the world, the President of the United States. One of the first actions he undertakes to restore leadership over the nation is to surround himself with people he can trust to advise him. Voices that will remind him who he is and what is expected of him as the president.
Women are designated survivors too. Throughout history they have endured all kind of attacks, from being excluded to violently being abused. These questions remain: Who do women surround themselves with, and which voices are they listening to?
The first human words recorded in the Bible were directed toward a woman in a place called the Garden of Eden. When Adam sees the woman God fashioned to be at his side, he bursts out in prophetic and poetic jubilation, "Finally, flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone, she shall be called Woman.”
Some biblical scholars believe that the first Adam named the woman in order to show his authority over her, thereby giving him the mandate to define and set boundaries in relation to her calling and destiny as a woman. This is far from the truth. Naming in the Bible is often linked to authority, but naming and calling can have different meanings depending on the context. No wonder that God renamed different people to call out their destinies. When it comes to the creation story, God didn't instruct the man to name the woman. Instead, He inspired him to call out, “she shall be called Woman!” He proclaims the word “woman” over her, validates her as his equal counterpart, and summons her to his side to rule and reign with him.
Unfortunately, the man and woman crossed the only boundary God had set and messed up God’s original design of equality and unity as children of God. As a result, the man named the woman and took authority and ownership over her. By naming her Eve (mother of all living), her value and purpose was no longer found in being a woman, but mainly in the doing part, in her ability to give birth to children, especially male children. No wonder that from that time onward the cry of the barren woman, the widow, and the single woman can be heard crying out from the pages of scripture.
On resurrection morning, again in a garden, something very significant happened. The first words from the mouth of the resurrected Christ (the last Adam) were once again directed to a woman. He called her “Woman” and than called her by her name, Mary. By calling her Woman, Jesus proclaims who she is. He validates her as a woman and summons her, not to His feet but to his side, and commissions her to fulfill her God-given purpose.
The name Mary is also very interesting; it comes from the Hebrew name Miryam. This was also the name of the sister of Moses who lived in Egypt. The name in Hebrew means bitter or rebellious. It's very unlikely that Jesus had this meaning in mind when he called her by her name. A little digging in the origin of names results in a very interesting observation. The name most likely originates from the Egyptian name Mry, which means “beloved or love.” Assumptions have been made that Mary was Jesus’ beloved disciple and that they had been romantically involved, but I believe that this is a decoy of the enemy trying to hide something very significant.
Mary Magdalene, the woman in the garden, the first to encounter the risen Christ, isn't called to be an earthly bride. Rather, she is called to be the image of the spiritual bride of Christ. Mary, the woman from whom seven demons went out shows us that we as the Church, the Bride of Christ, are brothers and sisters who are redeemed, restored, renewed, and released, and together we have a destiny to fulfill. Together we are called to a person Jesus, then given a place at his side and released into proclaiming the Good News of his resurrection to all people.
Ironically, the first people Jesus sends Mary to are her brothers in Christ. Unfortunately having a woman bring the Good News of Jesus and his resurrection doesn't sit well with the brothers. They don't believe her. It wouldn't surprise me if she was told, “Mary, know your place. You can't tell us what to believe and what to do, you are a woman.” But on that resurrection morning, Mary took Jesus' words to heart and against all odds took her designated place, not at his feet but at his side and went to put into practice what he told her to do: GO and TELL.
I don't know what the resurrected Christ has instructed you to do, and I don't know what you have been told by people, including "the brothers.” What I do know is that if Mary took Jesus’ words to heart and became a daring person, then there is no reason that we can't do the same. In Christ we are half of the Bride and half of the Church. We're no longer bone of Adam’s bone and flesh of Adam’s flesh. We are a new creation in Christ Jesus. We are his flesh and blood, his body. So precious designated Woman, it's time to listen and let the word “Beloved” soak deeply into every fiber of your being. Jesus calls you to rise up, show up, and speak up and as we rise together with the other half of the Bride to step up and step out to fulfill OUR designated destiny.