Step Out of the Tent
For the past month, our church has been working through a study called Nameless Women. The stories of these nameless women in Scripture are inspiring, and as I’ve reflected on them, I began imagining what their lives were like.
Here is an excerpt from my personal blog where I dreamt up the life of the Bleeding Woman:
She steps her toe out of the tent.
The sunlight hits her foot, and as she leans the rest of her body forward, she feels the magnitude of her movement in the pit of her stomach. Before her weight can move from the ball of her right foot to fill her heel, she shifts to her left and pulls herself back into the tent.
Back under her covering. Back into the shade.
Back into the darkness.
She dances forward and back two more times before she pauses with her eyes closed.
“Let all that I am praise the Lord. With my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.” She whispers the Psalm of David to herself.
Before she was outcast to this tent, her mother taught her all she knew of the God of their people; the God of Israel. Her mother used to visit her once each month during the time she was also sent away as unclean. Together, they would pray. She knew the faithfulness of Yahweh.
“What are you doing? Nobody wants you out there, cursed woman,” one of the ladies spits at her. She is drawn back to her reality and turns to glance behind her. “Stay where you belong.”
Yet, with each day she wakes up, she feels resilience forming within her. The devil has come for her and the world around her believes his lies, but slowly she has recalled the words her mother spoke over her as a child.
“Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!”
She steps her toe back in the sunlight.
“What is she doing?”
She hears the whispers behind her. Her left foot passes her right.
“Where does she think she is going?”
Right. Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Slowly at first, then with a quicker pace.
She stepped out of the tent.
She closes her eyes and repeats these Truths in her mind. Until this moment, her awakening has remained within her soul. But, with each foot placed in front of the other she is sharing her faith with the world.
The Bleeding Woman: we reference her story, we hang icons in our churches of a faithfully outstretched hand, and we use her as an example of boldness. Of bravery. Of faith. We call her “The Bleeding Woman” as if this is her name and we discuss her as if she was always an icon.
But, let’s be honest: she was living in absolute anguish.
Before she stepped out in faith, she lived twelve years as an outcast, unwanted, presumably cursed woman. Then, even once she was healed, her name is not remembered. But for this woman, I imagine that boldness, bravery, faith, and fame were never the goals.
Her only goal was Jesus.
When my husband and I stepped into church planting five years ago, we had no expectations. Being church planters was never in our plan. I often joke that my husband lied in our premarital counseling because he never told me he was going to be a pastor and being a pastor’s wife was not on my list of life goals or dream jobs.
So how do we respond when we take on labels we never wanted? What do we do when life hands us a situation we never asked for?
To be honest, for the first few years, I sat in it. I didn’t get up, I didn’t offer suggestions, I didn’t feel worthy. I let the world tell me who I was and I wore an identity not given to me by God. Then, bit-by-bit, one step at a time, I took steps toward Jesus and let him define me instead of the person next to me.
We love our church plants. We love them with our whole hearts. Whether we jumped in with purpose or stumbled here by accident, these churches and people and places have captivated our hearts and lives.
But sometimes, that’s the problem. When you love something so much you’re willing to die for it, it’s easy to lose sight of who you are in the process of caring for it. Whether the “it” be your family or your church, when the “whatever-it-takes” mentality takes over and you start functioning in survival mode, the tendency is to forget who you are and be whoever you’re told to be.
The Bleeding Woman’s faith has made her well, and for the rest of time, her story will inspire the world. My prayer for all of us–the church planters, the church sustainers, the disciple makers, the Kingdom seekers–is that we keep Jesus the goal. When he is the goal, grit and identity are the outcome.
When Jesus is the goal, we have all we need to step out of the tent.
Rachel is the General Manager of the ONE Center for Leadership and co-pastor of 3rd Street Community Church. She lives in Canton, Ohio with her husband, Corey, their daughters, Sarah and Kaylee, and their unconventional family of “grown children.” Rachel is also a graduate student at Fuller Theological Seminary.