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"Daughter, be of good comfort"
Reflections on the Savior's relationship with women
“But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.”
Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!
The past few weeks have been filled with many wonderful things, and with many things to wonder about.
In the spirit of this day in which we honor all women, I want to reflect for a bit (as a man 🙂) on the Savior’s relationship to women.
Here’s what brought me to do so:
For most of the past week, I’ve been in Dallas for a work conference. It’s been about as exciting as that sounds. Lots of standing and talking and sitting. And little-to-no-sleep in a hotel. #JustPartOfTheJob
I’ve also noticed something this week that has stood out to me more than I may have realized before.
Being a woman is hard. (Yeah…call me Captain Obvious.)
A young, attractive women working in a booth being constantly “looked over” by men. Always smiling. Always courteous. But what must that feel like?
Seeing a girl dressed in clothing that she clearly wasn’t comfortable in (both her dress and shoes) trying to look happy and comfortable around those she was with.
Noticing how women are expected to look, talk, and act a certain way to “deserve” opportunities they have rightfully earned.
Older women who work professionally often seem tired from the added burden they have of needing to “keep up” with those younger and more “in touch” than they are.
Mothers who also work outside the home are so tired, but they keep going, often without rest or recognition. And the pressure on them is relentless.
Raising children is God’s work and glory. It is also the hardest thing we’ll ever do. Also never-ending. Also often thankless. Just when the heart can’t take anymore, more happens anyway.
The relationship women have with their bodies is SO complex. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like to constantly be told your value is based on how you look, what you wear (and don’t wear,) what you eat and drink, and on and on. Sister Cordon just taught some super-important things about the blessings and challenges of having a body. I look forward to studying what she shared.
No doubt there are many other complexities in womens’ lives that I’m totally overlooking. If I missed mentioning one or more of those, I hope you can forgive me. No slight is intended. I love, honor, and celebrate all women for who they are and how they bless the lives of so many.
Now that I’ve perhaps added to your burden, I’ll attempt to lighten it. Or better said, to help you draw comfort from the Comforter.
Speaking of, I was reminded of one of the Savior’s titles this week: The Second Comforter.
18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.
21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
22 Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?
23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
This seems important in relation to what I want to share: Jesus wants us to draw near to Him and the Father. The idea of that title, Second Comforter, implies a sacred, intimate relationship. A special, holy kind of knowing and being known.
(As I sit on a plane writing this, a woman in the seat in front of me is reading a small, dog-eared, clearly much-loved booklet filled with devotionals. She keeps turning back to the same page about praying for children. Three names—Cody, Jody, and Zack— are written at the top of the page. It looks as if something may have been spilled on the page. Water? Tears? Sometimes she nods. Sometimes she opens her Bible, also well-worn. Now she is working on memorizing Colossians 3:15-17, which she has written down in a notebook. Wow. I hope she finds what/who she is looking for. Should I be sharing this? Am I violating her privacy? This feels like sacred ground…)
Of the many stories about the Savior found in the scriptures, I often find myself drawn to those involving women. May I share a few as my Mother’s Day gift to you?
Beginning with his mother, Jesus shared tender relationships with several Mary’s. One—Mary Magdalene, seems to have had a close friendship with Him.
If you are a watcher of The Chosen (if not, YA’LL…), this is the Mary we meet in the first episode of the first season and who becomes one of His most devoted disciples. The one possessed by evil spirits before she is healed, presumably by the Savior. She was also one of those present at the Savior’s crucifixion. And perhaps most importantly, the first one (in scripture at least) to see and speak with the resurrected Christ. (Speaking of The Chosen, here’s a lovely story about how artist Liz Lemon Swindle was inspired by that first episode to paint this painting of the moment just after Jesus finds her.)
What do I learn from Mary? Stay close to Him. Keep your eyes on Him. Listen to Him. And don’t stop trying to learn more. Why was she the first one to see Him as the resurrected Son of God? Because she was searching for Him. Because she was where she needed to be when He was ready to reveal Himself. She somehow understood that her best Source of comfort and relief (my favorite talk from general conference, BTW) was found in Him. True for Mary. True for me. True for you.
The woman taken in adultery
(Pet peeve alert. I really hope there will be a correction made in the scriptural record at some point that gives us the names of all the unnamed women and men whose stories have become so important to so many. They deserve the recognition.)
First, part of what I love about this story is the fact that Jesus was up early, teaching in the temple. That seems relevant for not just those He was teaching, but for any who may wish to be taught by Him. When and where He was teaching matters, I think.
And then, a disruption.
3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
The lesson? He saw her. He joined her where she was. He was with her in her worst moment (Can you even imagine the shame she must have been feeling? Was she a sinner? Clearly, yes. But to be surrounded by self-righteous men, each with stones in hand, ready to administer “justice,” is beyond comprehension.)
I hope any woman reading this feels seen by the Savior in the same way I think this unnamed woman felt seen by Him. Imperfect, broken, fragile. But also worthy of forgiveness. Deserving of another chance. And loved. So very much loved.
Last one (for now.) I think we haven’t given enough love and attention to Sariah.
Think about her story for a moment:
Lehi comes home and announces they need to leave their home and all of their possessions behind. Are they moving to a lovely new home in Jerusalem? Will their children still attend the same schools, have the same friends, and enjoy the same privileges they’ve enjoyed as prominent citizens?
They’re going to wander in the wilderness (what would Sariah have thought if she knew it would be for eight years? And that she would be pregnant—twice—during that journey?) How must she have felt? To add to her burden, after leaving everything behind, Lehi is told to send her four oldest sons back to Jerusalem to get the plates. We don’t know if she knew the risks, but it’s likely she had some sense of the danger they were being sent into.
And she let them go.
How long were they gone? A few days? A week? Weeks? Longer?
Did she walk to the top of the closest hill each night, watching the horizon, her mind filled with all the terrible possibilities?
At last the blessed moment came when they returned.
And it came to pass that after we had come down into the wilderness unto our father, behold, he was filled with joy, and also my mother, Sariah, was exceedingly glad, for she truly had mourned because of us.
For she had supposed that we had perished in the wilderness; and she also had complained against my father, telling him that he was a visionary man; saying: Behold thou hast led us forth from the land of our inheritance, and my sons are no more, and we perish in the wilderness.
And after this manner of language had my mother complained against my father.
1 Nephi 5:1-3
But if we stop here, we miss the profound testimony of this faithful woman, found in verse 8:
Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath commanded my husband to flee into the wilderness; yea, and I also know of a surety that the Lord hath protected my sons, and delivered them out of the hands of Laban, and given them power whereby they could accomplish the thing which the Lord hath commanded them. And after this manner of language did she speak.
That first sentence is what hints at how amazing Sariah truly was…
Now? After all that she and her family have been through? After losing her home/friends/possessions? After sending away her children to an unknown fate? This is the moment she receives her own answer? What kind of faith would it take to go through all of this (and no doubt much more we don’t know anything about) relying on the faith of others?
I don’t have the words to convey how humbled I am by this kind of faith. Three cheers for Sariah!
Well, there you have it. A few simple musings on what I hope has been a lovely Mother’s Day for you. I know for many it is a difficult day, filled with wishes and worries and wondering over “what-ifs” and “if-onlys.”
I don’t know much, but I do know this. The Savior cared deeply about the women in His life, beginning with His beloved mother and extending to those He called “daughter,” friends, and disciples. I also know that His comfort is better than any other. That He has promised to dry your tears. And that His Atonement endowed Him with perfect empathy to succor, guide, and console His beloved daughters. That means you.
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For My Mom
From a Mother’s Day long, long ago. I think I bought her a purse at a garage sale. It was $1.00. I don’t know if she ever used it. For some reason I remember that it had flowers stitched on the side of it?
Mom, if there are things I’ve done well and if there are people I have loved well, it’s mostly because of you. I don’t remember many of the words you said to me as a boy, but I will never forget the lessons you taught me by example.
I love you. Happy Mother’s Day!