You may have heard the story of Moses, because it’s such a great story, but I want to share parts of it with you again because it is so profound to me in light of what I think we are called to be and to do in this life.
I’ll start with a brief history lesson about Moses in case some parts of his story are foggy…you’ll likely remember them as I recount the details.
Moses was born during a time when the Pharaoh Ramses was deteriorating mentally and grasping at straws to save his own authority in Egypt over the growing population of Israelites. He first tried to enslave them all. Bringing them under his authority against their will would surely place them in a position of servitude and hopefully break their spirits.
When that didn’t make a large enough impact, he ordered that all of the baby boys born to Israelites be killed at birth. Midwives in the realm were often too horrified to follow through with those orders. Ramses began to notice that despite his efforts, the population of Israelites, even though they were enslaved, still grew. His worry was that their numbers would grow and in turn their strength would grow and be able to rise up against him.
Continuing to feel threatened, he ordered all Egyptians (not just the midwives) to find all Israelite baby boys and throw them into the Nile River to drown.
The Pharaoh’s daughter, Bithiah was washing in the Nile one morning when Miriam, Moses’s sister had swaddled him in a basket and hid him amongst the reeds to wait for just this opportunity. She set him onto the water to float down the river towards Bithiah. When Ramses daughter found Moses, she took him in as her own…Moses’s sister, who had been standing close by, watching as a protector, popped up to offer Pharaoh’s daughter a slave to nurse and care for this child she now wanted to take in as her own…….ingeniously, Miriam offered the services of Moses’s (and her) own Israelite mother, Jochobed.
Jochobed, an enslaved Israelite, found herself in the service of the Pharaoh’s daughter. Never was she paid, never was she to receive any glory for her services…but she got the opportunity to do what she wanted most to do in her life and take care of her son.
The beginning of Moses’s story is so exciting to me for two reasons: because the fear, delusion, and madness of one man, one person, could not foil God’s plan. Moses lived despite Ramses’s best efforts. He wasn’t even aware yet of the continuation of Moses’s story as we know it—this kid went on to save the Israelites, leading them from enslavement in Egypt to the promised land.
The other reason the story makes such an impact is that Ramses, in his delusion, figured that the only threat to his power was a male. He didn’t order the baby girls to die. He didn’t even recognize that his own daughter brought home an Israelite male child to call her own. He was so single-minded that he overlooked the influence of women all together. Miraim, Jochobed, and Ramses daughter, Bithiah were all underestimated women who played a significant role.
Often, as we see in history like in this story (and elsewhere), the power of women is underestimated. Sometimes, we, too have been lead to believe that our contributions may be a bit less significant (to society, to bank accounts, to the world in general)……..but over and over we see that this just isn’t the truth. This is not the truth in the world and this is not God’s truth for who we are either.
Because of this, we cannot buy into a thought, a discussion, a lie that we do not play a significant role. We are mothers. We are sisters. We are wives. We are warriors. Our words and actions may not rise up like a conventional army, but our words and actions build them! We build up our children. We encourage and build up men who come to know us. We have the power to build each other up and together prove that we are a force for love and goodness.
That is exactly the kind of power that ultimately cost the Pharaoh Ramses his throne. He underestimated women and the power God has given us through the greatest weapon this world has ever known: love.
When we are tired, we still love. When we are hurting, we still love. When we are broken, we STILL love.
This same love from this same story bore a few more generations…and then, an angel came one night to visit some girl, a seemingly powerless teenage girl. This angel asked her if she would carry a child who would be the Savior of the world. She would not get a whole bunch of glory as this world knows it, she’d endure a whole bunch of hardship, she’d be questioned, mocked, and would endure a heartache the likes of which she wouldn’t want to bear. And out of pure love…she said yes.
Love has power. Power to encourage. Power to change stories. Power to save.
WRAP IT UP:
From the power of love, the power of a girl’s “yes”…..
……..God so loved the world that he gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but shall have everlasting life.
With their power of love, Miriam, Jachobed, and Bithiah are part of a story of salvation of a nation.
With her “yes”, Mary partners herself with the plans of the Almighty and was empowered to bring Christ into the world ** in another story of salvation: ours.
Our power as women lies in love. When we choose to love, it is our “yes,” our part of the salvation story.
**[James Martin, SJ According to Your Will: Mary’s ‘Yes’ and Ours]