There’s an ancient, sacred story told of a woman who had the capacity to influence a man of power, who was adamant about her desires, who demanded the miraculous, and who, offers us a pretty amazing template for how to be determined, independent, and wise ourselves!
I love her story: her determination, her opinionated-ness, her unwillingness to accept “no” for an answer, her strength, her courage, her decisiveness, her agency…
And chances are high you’ve not heard of her. Or if you did, it was a LONG time ago and definitely without the 3 points I’m about to make!
She’s called the Shunammite. The prophet she interacts with is Elisha. And the miracle she demands is her son’s resurrection. Which she gets, by the way! (Though this may sound WAY outside the context of your own story, stay with me. I promise…it will connect and relate.)
She offers us three takeaways worth pondering, pursuing, and living:
1) This woman constructed her own rules related to wealth, roles, and voice.
She was not constrained by the common customs of the day (dependent, deferring, and silent). She was profoundly countercultural, made decisions completely independent of a man, and was intact — in and of herself — in every way.
Consider the predominant messages of our world today: the assumed standards of what is “appropriate” or “acceptable” behavior. What are the unspoken rules you know like the back of your hand? I get it: few of them are blatant; no declaration hangs on the wall. It’s highly possible that the only time you are actually aware of any “rules” at all is when you consider breaking one of them. And then? Well, resistance floods. The list of cons far outweighs the pros. You can already anticipate exactly what the fallout will be if you do/be/say ________.
The Shunammite offers you something far different. She says,“ Do just the opposite! Construct your own rules. No permission required!”
2) This woman did not place stock in religious authority or positions of power.
Instead, she relied on her own understanding, beliefs, and faith. She ostensibly said, “I will choose my own response to this circumstance. I will not be silenced into submission. I will determine where I place my hope and in whom.”
Think about your own story with religion — whether you went to church every single Sunday like me or just the opposite. What did you learn about who held the power, who determined what was allowed and not, right and wrong, good and bad? Chances are high there was little choice: you either believed or you didn’t; you acceded to the system and the beliefs, or you did not. And that either/or, black/white binary profoundly (and painfully) limits your spirituality, your experience of the sacred. It breaks my heart.
This woman, the Shunammite offers you something far different. Decide for yourself what you will believe, what you will hope in, what is worth fighting for. You get to choose, experience, and know the sacred on your own terms.
3) This woman refused to take “no” for an answer
— especially from those who wielded far more power and authority. She didn’t ask for her husband’s permission. She wouldn’t let Elisha’s servant serve as proxy. In fact, she conjured the power-source himself into her midst by adamantly refusing anything less.
Consider the places in your life — past and present — in which the tendency or temptation to comply or compromise has been not only present, but overwhelming. Because…well…let’s be honest: to stand up for yourself, to state your opinion, to exert your own power often feels more exhausting than it’s worth. To be just a little smaller, accept just a little less, take on just a bit more, and silently endure isn’t your first choice, but sometimes, quite frankly, it feels like the most sane one. Saying “yes,” even though it’s not wholehearted becomes far easier than having to stand fast, resist, and remain firm. I understand, believe me.
This woman, the Shunammite offers you something far different. “No” can be your default response — to any form of compromise, to any requirement that you give up hope, to any person of power who wants you to settle down or settle, period.
Pretty good stuff, huh? And all from a dusty, old, and relatively unknown story that (still) offers us powerful and relevant ways of being that are relevant, practical, and applicable right now, today, in this moment. (I love that this is the case!!)
So, by way of review:
1) Do just the opposite of the rules and expectations in place.
2) Define and experience the sacred on your own terms; create your own spirituality.
3) Say “no” to any form of power who prefers less of you instead of all of you.
This story, the Shunammite’s is one of 52 that I reimagine and retell so that you can be accompanied, advocated for, and supported by the wisdom you deserve for the year ahead.
One of these stories, these women, is choosing you. I’m certain of it!
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