Memoir Monday

Lessons from Women of Faith

As I was contemplating the women involved in the Easter story, I started thinking about the women of faith whose memoirs have inspired me. There have been a few who changed something for immediately and others whose words didn’t hit me until I’d dwelt on them a while. These aren’t necessarily the reason the author was writing these books but an unexpected take away that I had from them.

Give until it hurts.

Unquenchable Thirst by Mary Johnson

This was actually said by Mother Theresa but I had somehow missed it until I read Johnson’s memoir. This line stayed with me. It’s not the same when it comes from our excess, our wealth. Giving isn’t a sacrifice until it costs us something. It really made me see the whole thing differently.

From Jesus Feminist, I learned that helping isn’t the same thing as assisting. There’s a controversy about the woman’s role as “helper” in the Bible and I significant piece of this memoir is the realization that the word for “helper” that the Bible uses to described woman’s role is the same word used when referring to God helping people. That makes it not exactly the same kind of help that we see portrayed by people who want women to be only a helper to man. It’s the kind of help that a person can’t do for themselves, not just something to make their own lives easier. It’s being a partner. Or as my husband often describes it, being a battle buddy.

From Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved, I was reminded that this isn’t actually true. Or at least, it’s not a reason that’s going to seem good enough for us. Most important was the reminder that it’s okay for that reason to be not obvious or not good enough for us. We don’t have to understand or be good with it. Things that happen are going to happen. I’ve had such a hard time in life with the notion that everything has to have a reason or that I have to be perfectly okay with God’s plan. But I don’t have to be. I can be saddened or unhappy or angry. I can not understand. Maybe I will understand one day, and maybe I won’t. Either way, I don’t have to excuse it all. I don’t have to say it’s okay. And I definitely don’t have to listen to people who say these things. Mostly, I wish they’d stop saying these things. They aren’t actually comforting when I’m going through something terrible.

From Accidental Saints, I learned that sometimes the best thing we can do for people is release them from their obligations to us. I know it’s not supposed to be the take away from that book and there were other valuable lessons, but that’s the one that stays with me the most. I can help most of my relationships by releasing others from feeling like they have to come see me, or call me, or do things for me, or keep some sort of schedule. I’ve had friends since reading this that were stressed about doing one thing or other with or for me and looked at them said those words. They have a magical effect. I release you from the obligation to me.

Because it had to do with Easter, I did specifically choose lessons from Christian women, but I have also learned a lot over the years from women of other religions as well.

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