Over the past month, I’ve been privileged to spend time with three remarkable young women. My younger cousin, being one of these folks, called me a few months ago with news that she had recently accepted a job in a different time zone, far away from the comforts of home. I was eager to join her on the move out west. Aside from some snow, the trip was not terribly adventurous, which is exactly what one hopes for on such an occasion. Flat tires, wrong turns, or heavy road construction are not the type of thing one needs on such a trip. After fifteen hours in a car together we finally arrived and she was able to get settled. Throughout the trip, I was struck by her courage to move into the unknown, leaving behind family and friends as she made a fresh start, wholeheartedly trusting in God in this next phase of her journey.
I was also able to spend the weekend, recently, with some old acquaintances, and now friends, from back home. As they visited with my wife and me, they shared their stories and their hopes, their joys and their pains. What particularly struck me about these folks was their dogged persistence to believe in the God who offers new life in the midst of difficult and tragic situations, in the God who believes in us even when others tell us that we’re not valuable or that we’re broken because of who God has made us to be. As with my cousin, their faith led them to embrace new life in the midst of doubt and uncertainty. Their openness to the new things God was doing in their lives and in other communities left both my wife and me feeling very fortunate to have been able to get to know them and to hear their stories during their visit.
As I was trying to make sense of the very rich, blessed time that I was able to spend with all of these folks over the past several weeks, my mind wandered to the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection in the Gospels. Throughout these accounts, we read of the courage and audacity of several women who were close to Jesus throughout his life and his ministry. We read of women who had the nerve to believe in Jesus’ resurrection before the other disciples, many of whom were nervous and doubtful. These are the same women who boldly took this good news and found the others and began proclaiming the gospel. Stepping out in faith, they boldly challenged conventional wisdom, preaching the resurrection of Christ and the power of God to break the chains of oppression and suffering, sin and death. Not everyone understood them. Not everyone believed them. Yet God still moved in a mighty way through these disciples and preachers. God moved through their faith to further usher in the reign of God, regardless of how legitimate others perceived their testimony to be.
I would be remiss to reflect upon the witness of these women in the Gospel narratives, and the witness of my cousin and my two friends, and to not also mention the witness of the many other strong women who have nurtured, befriended, guided, taught, and loved me through the years. From classmates and professors, to my mother and grandmothers and other cousins, to aunts, bosses, pastors and ministers and dear friends, they have all been witnesses to and reflections of God’s resurrecting power and unending faithfulness. There is more light and justice and peace in the world because of their work. It is my prayer that during this Easter season we may cultivate a mindfulness to recognize those people through whom God’s new life has been made available to us. May we give thanks for the witness and honor to the struggles of those folks through whom abundant life is made more tangible in this world.