This season of my life has been a true joy as I have dug into the Word and listened to what the Lord wanted me to share each month. However, one of the biggest blessings has been the depths of encouragement I have received from other women.
About a month ago, I was asked to speak at a Mother’s Day Breakfast at my local church. I knew that the audience would be very diverse — all women of all ages. This opportunity was an honor, but it was also a pretty big mountain that the Lord wanted me to climb. As I sorted through my thoughts for a message, one topic stuck out in my mind as being very relevant: women need other women.
In preparation, I got really close with two women in the Bible, Mary and her cousin Elizabeth. I believe their story lays a firm foundation for Christ-centered relationships with other women. It begins in Luke 1 but sends ripples throughout the New Testament and into our lives today.
In Luke 1:5-25, Zechariah, Elizabeth’s husband, is visited by the angel Gabriel who shares that Elizabeth will become pregnant in her old age. In Luke 1:26-38, this same angel then appears to Mary to share that she will become pregnant by the Holy Spirit with the son of God. During Gabriel’s visit to Mary, he shares that her cousin Elizabeth is also pregnant with a child. From the very beginning of Mary’s knowledge that she was pregnant, she knew that God gave her someone who would understand. Luke 1:39-45 is where we find the height of their relationship. After Gabriel leaves Mary, it says that she hurried to Elizabeth’s house. Elizabeth then greeted her joyfully and welcomed Mary into her home where they would share three months of pregnancy together.
“At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” – Luke 1:39-45
I believe that we can unpack three major truths from Mary and Elizabeth’s relationship that gives insight into what God desires for us as women:
1. God gives us women who understand.
C.S. Lewis once said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too?” I truly believe this to be the heart of what I have found within Delight Ministry. As we share our stories, we have all experienced those moments where we say “What! You too?” God gave Mary a friend to walk with through her pregnancy. It probably wasn’t the friend that she imagined, since Elizabeth was about forty years older than Mary and pregnant in her sixties. God works beyond our imagination. As we walk through the seasons of life, I encourage you to look to the women God has placed around you. Don’t limit the people in your life to your own expectations.
2. God gives us women to complement each other, not compete.
Scripture says that Elizabeth was so excited to see Mary. The baby actually leaped in her womb with joy. Elizabeth greeted Mary cheerfully and blessed her. Let’s think about this in reality — Elizabeth is six months pregnant as an older woman. Mary had no phone to call ahead and warn Elizabeth that she was also pregnant and on her way for an extended stay. Elizabeth could have easily reacted out of jealousy or inconvenience when she saw Mary. She could have depreciated her pregnancy with John the Baptist when she realized that Mary was pregnant with the Son of God. Comparison is the thief of joy. Elizabeth recognized that Mary’s ministry of raising Jesus did not minimize her ministry of raising his cousin. As women, our lives are going to look and grow differently. However, God did not intend for us to focus on competition with others when we are in similar places. We so often put up a “no trespassing” sign instead of a “welcome” sign. However, we are to complement each other in our efforts of Kingdom building. As women, we each have a God-given purpose that is aligned with God’s will.
3. God gives us women to leave a legacy of faith together.
Elizabeth and Mary raised John the Baptist and Jesus, which were both really big assignments as mothers. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” As we walk alongside each other, let us not forget that we are running our own race while also preparing for the next generation of Kingdom workers at the same time. Hebrews 12:1b says, “Let us keep running in the race that God has planned for us.” Since I ran track in high school, I visualize this as a relay race. Imagine you are approaching the finish line and running hard with a steady rhythm. As you finish your race, you are to pass the baton off to the next woman in line. This may be a child, a family member, a friend, a mentee, or even a complete stranger. In a relay race, the most effective and efficient way to pass off a baton is for the second person to join in the same stride and rhythm of the runner. Therefore, when the baton is finally passed, there is no time lost in the transition. This is how I envision our ministries to be as women.
I pray that as we run this race, we embody the spirit of Mary and Elizabeth.
I pray that we look among other women to see that they are running the race as well, and they understand what we are going through.
I pray that we let others join our rhythm and our stride as complements and not competition.
I pray that we pass our batons off to the next generation in line.