The woman stood slightly turned from the viewer with her arm raised, and a sword in her hand. She stood naked and powerful, her body muscular and beautiful in a way we rarely see in old paintings. Most of the women look soft, painted in a favorable light and the most fashionable clothes of the day. We know them by their married names, but not this woman. She is called by her own name, Judith. She looked strong and brave, brave enough to save the Jews from their enemy Holofernes, armed with her wit and her weapon. She raises her sword and fist in triumph as Holofernes lies lifeless beside her.
My son watched a movie recently with the most ridiculous portrayal of women I’ve seen in a long time. It objectified the lead female character in a way that made me wish he’d never seen it. We had a nice long chat where I stood on my soapbox and railed about the objectification of women for a while, and he pretended to have some clue as to what I meant. When I saw this painting of Judith in a museum recently, I knew this portrait of strength and power and brilliance is what I want my son and daughters to know about women. I want them to understand that a woman’s worth is not bound up in her beauty and sex appeal or her ability to please a man. A woman’s worth is in her ability to stand strong in difficult circumstances. Her worth is in her faithfulness, her wisdom, her intellect, her ability to keep on keeping on. And if that means taking off the heads of a few men who persecute her while she’s at it–then so be it.
I don’t always know where to find these women, especially women of the faith who have gone before us and done the good and hard work of bringing the gospel to others. I want to know about the Judith’s who have gone before me and my girls, the women whose footsteps I can settle into as I walk the narrow road of faith. Who are the female pilgrims whose progress encourages me to pick up my traveler’s gear and continue on my journey of faith? Who among us, loved Jesus more than they loved life itself? These are the women I want my children to see and model their lives after.
When my friend Michelle DeRusha told me she received a contract to write a book called 50 Women Every Christian Should Know, I felt at once excited and sad for her. Excited because she had a contract, sad because she would inevitably have to sift through mountains of boring research to write it. I felt fairly certain it would kill a lesser writer, namely me. When she finished the book and sent it my way, I felt a little thrill of excitement that someone had finally done the hard work of researching and writing about these women, and I only needed to settle in and read it.
I was so, so wrong. Reading about each of these fifty women challenged me to examine my life in a way I hadn’t expected. I thought I would come away encouraged by their stories, and in many ways I have, but more than that, I came away from the book wanting more of Jesus. Wanting to make an impact right where I am with the skills and talents I’ve got. These women suffered, friends. They lost husbands and children and their reputations. They lost comfort and social standing and security. They had deep doubts, as many as you or I will ever have, and yet they clung to the belief that God had a greater purpose for their lives.
This book is fascinating. Challenging. Wonderful. And Michelle would like to send one of you a signed copy. Leave a comment below telling me which woman in your life had the most impact on your faith, and in an entirely unscientific method, my son will choose one of your names from a hat. If you can’t wait, and really you shouldn’t, can I urge you to go buy this book? Buy it for you, for your best friend, for your mother, your sister, your daughter. These are the stories we need to keep near, the stories that bear repeating, the ones that will sing us home. Let’s learn from the Judiths of this world, and allow their stories to encourage us to become Judiths too.
The giveaway for Michelle’s book 50 Women Every Christian Should Know: Learning from the heroines of the faith will remain open until Thursday Sept 18th at 9pm EST.
*****Update: This giveaway is now closed. Kelli is our winner! Kelli, check your inbox for a message from me:)******