Have you ever been wounded by another person? Not like stubbing your toe or banging your heads, but I mean really wounded. Unwanted, unappreciated, unheard, unknown. The kinds of wounds that cut deep. I'm guessing you have. Has anyone not?
I'm sitting here with my laptop and my Bible analyzing the stories of two women I love and can't wait to meet someday: Hagar and the hemorrhaging woman. It's okay if you don't know these women yet...I'd love to introduce you because, there's a high likelihood that you are much like them. I think all women might be.
Hagar and the hemorrhaging woman are two of several women I'll be teaching about this weekend at a women's retreat. I love women's retreats because I love how real and authentic and relevant are the stories of the women in the Bible. I love how they've become my friends over the years. I have so many questions to ask when I meet them face to face.
Today God showed me something that stopped me in my tracks. As I took note of the various struggles and wounds in these women's lives, my jaw literally dropped as I saw for the first time the striking similarities of the wounds of so many women in the Bible - Hagar (Genesis 16), the hemorrhaging woman (Mark 5), the woman who anointed Jesus' feet (Luke 7), Leah (Genesis 29), Mary Magdalene (John 20), the woman caught in adultery (John 8), the woman at the well (John 4)...to name only a few. Goodness gracious...why haven't I realized before that all these women carry the same wounds?
As me and my coffee sat together at my kitchen table this afternoon, I pondered these wounds...are the wounds of all these women so similar because these are the timeless, universal wounds of a woman? The wounds that transcend the ages and the borders and the cultures and become central to every woman's heart?
I think so, my friend.
As you read the list of wounds above, I think you have experienced them too, friend. I think at least some of these wounds resonate in your heart. They do mine for sure. These wounds have caused you to lie awake too many nights to count and shed too many tears to ever know. Not each wound, perhaps. But for some of you, yes, each wound.
And age isn't even really relevant, sadly. I have sat with many shattered-hearted-teenage girls, (even middle schoolers), who've told me that they've given their bodies away once or twice or many times, hoping for love in return. I've sat with many adult women who've told me the same thing. Broken sexuality, expressed through promiscuity, abuse, divorce, abortion, infidelity or pornography, is so often either the root of these wounds, or has been used as a quick fix band-aid for these wounds (only causing many more and deeper wounds as a result).
We see this sad truth in the lives of women in the Bible and in the lives of women all around us now, and in our very own lives. God's beautiful gift of sex for marriage has been marred and destroyed so badly that rather than being a celebration of love and unity, it's frequently the root of our deepest heart wounds. This is why I've had young girls come up to me after I've taught Leah's story (Genesis 29), in tears, saying, "I'm like Leah." And adult women who've come up to me with the same tears, "I'm the woman caught in adultery."
The wounds of broken sexuality, of being unloved and unwanted, transcend the times and cultures for sure.
Even young girls who are well-loved, in estrogen-driven emotion, feel unloved sometimes. Ask any parent of any girl over the age of 3.
These wounds afflict probably every female heart. The wounds certainly aren't always from issues sexual, but so many are that it would be remiss to neglect that painful reality.
The battle is fierce and the wounds are deep.
But I have good news. We really do have a knight in shining armor to rescue us from this battle, girlfriends. His name is Jesus.
For each of these women in the Bible, when they encounter the love of God, manifested in Jesus, they discover true love and true identity for the first time.
They are healed of their brokenness in the presence of Jesus.
Late one evening last week I closed down a local diner with a couple of girlfriends as we were discussing the deep human need for connectedness. One of my girlfriends suggested that the TV show Friends had it right, and that somehow, don't we all want the type of connectedness that enables us to walk through each others' front doors, knowing we're welcome anytime, and eat out of each others' fridges without having to ask? (okay, maybe not with everyone but perhaps with a few?)
Actually, the ratings of that hit show prove this reality of the human heart. The show was targeted at young adults and was a massive success because it resonated so deeply...the longings of the young adult heart for that type of interconnectedness certainly is what caused that sitcom to define an entire generation. Sure, it was hilarious, but even more so than needing laughter, our hearts resonated with the need for that kind of connectedness.
We were made for it, in fact. Earlier this summer I wrote a blog about having the type of friends who know (without asking) how you take your coffee. We need that kind of connectedness, and not having it wounds us.
And the primary wound of these women I'm studying in the Bible is that they ached for that connectedness and lived years of loneliness not finding it. Until they met the love of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
In the stories of Hagar, the hemorrhaging woman, and the woman at the well we see Jesus inviting these unloved, unwanted women into conversation. I love how the angel of the Lord asks Hagar, "Where have you come from and where are you going?" What an invitation to tell her story! Amidst her pain of being unwanted and uncared for, God invites her to lay it all out there and get it off her chest. He invites her to vent in safety. What a God!
In the story of the hemorrhaging woman we are told that though the crowds were pressing hard around Jesus, urging him to move on, the woman told Jesus "the whole truth." It's not indicated what "the whole truth" entails, but girls, this woman likely hadn't had anyone really listen to her for 12 years. If someone was going to let me tell my "whole truth" for the first time in 12 years, I can assure you it would take more than a couple minutes. More than a couple hours. And Jesus listened. Jesus' listening ears likely healed her soul just like his power healed her bleeding.
And then he claimed her: Daughter. For a woman who had been unclean for 12 years and likely had lost all intimate relationships in her life, feeling unclaimed and alone, this simple word of belonging would have changed her life. Daughter. Identity. Wholeness. Belonging. Love. Healing.
The woman at the well came there at noon, most likely to avoid the crowds of women who talked trash about her, since they had probably all been at the well at the expected hour of dawn. This woman probably lived her entire life feeling misunderstood. (Isn't being misunderstood one of the worst feelings ever?) Yet Jesus invited her into conversation until she finally learned he understands me, and he isn't condemning me. Jesus knew everything the woman had ever done, yet He clearly demonstrated such love that she ran back into her village and told everyone about him. She became a missionary to her own village because she found love and identity and purpose and belonging when she met her Savior who knew her.
Jesus transforms these women's lives with one encounter. An encounter that turns unwantedness into wantedness, unknown into known, loneliness into belonging, unloved into loved, misunderstood into understood, lost into found. Their wounds are healed when they discover that they are fully known in Christ.
Friend, so are you. You are fully known by God. You are fully lovedy by God. You are understood by God. You are found by God. You are wanted by God. To you God says, "I have called you by name and you are mine." (Isaiah 43:1). He calls you daughter and he asks you where you've come from and where you're going.
Jesus wants to meet with you, friend. He wants to sit down with you and listen to your story. He wants to heal your wounds.
And it doesn't mean that you won't need human friends anymore - He made you with a desire for meaningful, connected human relationships. But when you've met the love of Jesus and allowed Him to fill the wounded places of your heart, your human relationships will be so much better. You can love better when you're fully loved by God. You can receive love better when you know the love of God. You can understand others better when you know the One who fully understands you.
The wounds of every woman are transcendent for sure. But the love of God is more transcendent, friends. And more real. And more stable. And more tangible. And more everything.
And big enough to heal the wounds of every woman.
(Friends, my heart-felt prayer is that every woman would know the love of Christ and be healed by Him. If you have anyone in your life that might need this message, please share. Thanks, friend.)