Happy FriYAY, dear readers!
Well, I’m late to posting my book pick for May, but, nevertheless, here it is!
The book that I read, well finished, in May is an incredible book by Colleen C. Mitchell about the women in the Gospels of the Bible. I paired this book with my morning prayer because of the structure of each chapter and how easy it is to use to reflect upon the women in the Gospels and how their stories can translate to my own experiences and journey.
The book is divided up into 12 chapters with a Gospel reading, reflection, prayer and questions to ponder or bring to prayer.
Who Does He Say That You Are: Women Transformed by Christ in the Gospels delves into personal reflection and an invitation to be transformed by Christ as the women are in the Gospels. It not only shares the transformation, but the strength, dignity and worth of women in the eyes of Christ and how He elevates women. Each chapter reflects the reality of our dignity as women and speaks to the truth of the feminine genius. It transcends culture and time and relates to the very essence of our struggles as women today and the immense joy that comes from inviting Christ into our hearts and to allow us to be changed to reflect the Truth of the very essence of who we are as women and daughters of God.
This book challenged me in the ways that I see myself and the women in the Gospels. Oftentimes, I glossed over the stories of Mary Magdalene, the phoenician woman, the samaritan woman… I just read it and moved on, never really, truly reflecting on their stories or what exactly Christ was saying that was so incredibly countercultural and, at the same time, revealing the ultimate strength, beauty and worth of women.
One of my very favorite women from the Bible is the samaritan woman (John 4:1-42).
Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.
Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.
When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
“I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”
Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
Meanwhile his disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat something.”
But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”
Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”
Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers.
They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”
Here is a woman who is rejected by her people and is at the well during the heat of the day, standing in the burning sun getting water from the well. I never thought to reflect on why she was getting water during the heat of the day and why no one else was around. The most common times for getting water from the well was during the early hours of the day, before it became hot and unbearable in the sun. But, she was not doing so because of her circumstances, her past, her story and was rejected by those around her. Christ says to her, “I thirst”. Not only does he thirst for water, He thirsts for HER. He thirsts for the woman at the well. Another telling and incredible aspect of this story, Christ speaks directly to her and not from above her, but looking up at her, inquiring for a drink… and so much more. Men were not supposed to address women, especially women of a different community AND a woman who had been married multiple times. Christ doesn’t simply talk to her, but asks her to let go of her old ways of life and to live in the light of His love, His mercy and to be transformed. He doesn’t just sit with her and leave her the same as she was before they met. No, He calls her onward – He calls her to greatness.
This book smashes through the stereotypes, the assumptions, the stories that we often hear about women being lesser than in the Gospels or who we think are of no importance. On the contrary, the women in the Gospels are so much more and exude the grace & strength that we should look to reflect upon and more deeply discover in order to recognize the beauty that Christ sees in women and that He created us to complement our partners – men – and to recognize our sameness and our differences.
I highly encourage you to pick up a copy of this book and to read it bit by bit and give yourself time to reflect on the incredible women in the Gospels and to drink up the words that Mitchell has penned, giving yourself time to truly soak in the awesome stories of transformation, healing and love that is offered to all of us – today – and how we can see these women as our sisters, role models and reminders of the goodness and dignity of what it means to be a woman of God.