In your reading and studying of church history, do you ever wonder, where are the women? Not too long ago, I started reading a book that answers this very question. Sacred Friendships – Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith seeks to “uncover the buried treasure of wisdom about soul care and spiritual direction as practiced by women throughout the history of Christianity.” Though I haven’t finished reading it, I am very excited about sharing a little of it with you in the coming days and weeks. Here is a bit that I found especially encouraging this past week. I hope it encourages you, too.
One need not be a feminist (and neither of us is) to understand that God is the God of the widow, of the powerless, of the hurting (Psalm 68:5). Voiceless, invisible women like Hagar preceive by faith that God is the God who hears and sees the oppressed (Genesis 16:13). The historical silencing of women has significance to God — the God who sees, hears, cares, and empowers.
Because of their Hagar-like faith in God, rather than succumbing to their mistreatment, women of faith have risen above the trials of life lived east of Eden. Lettie Burd Cowman (1870-1960), missionary to Japan and famous for her Streams in the Desert daily devotional, emphasized that part of the depth of women’s spirituality arises from their wilderness experiences. She took her theme from Isaiah 35:6, “Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.”
Her core spirituality taught that life is hard in order to make us hardier. Her notion of powerlessness as the route to power rang true for her feminine readers and rings true for us in light of the history of feminine spirituality. “It is the difficulty encountered on the hills that drives us to the throne of grace and brings the showers of blessing. Yes, it is the hills, the cold and seemingly barren hills of life, that we question and complain about, that bring down the showers… And how many would have been killed by the cold, destroyed or swept desolate of their fruitfulness by the wind, if not for the hills — stern, hard, rugged, and so steep to climb.”
From Sacred Friendships by Dr. Robert Kellemen and Susan Ellis.