Repentance redefined: standing tall

Repentance redefined: standing tall February 15, 2013

” Not one more day did Jesus want this woman to live bent over.”

As I was completing work on my third book, My Own Worst Enemy,  I encountered the story of the woman bent over.

Listening once more to this Jesus-initiated, compassion-driven, Sabbath day healing of a woman bent over for 18 years, I was suddenly overwhelmed with all the ways that we as women may live bent over:

  • We tend to the needs of others while neglecting our own.
  • We exist in life as a “living apology,” seeking to earn worth through service, never quite hearing “well done.”
  • We diminish our gifts, wisdom, and brilliance.
  • We apologize for our voice or perspective, even if it’s helpful.
  • We feel selfish when we wisely choose self-care.
  • We relegate our desires to the “if I have time or extra resources” status…. and rarely “find” the time or resources.
  • We accept being “second class citizens” at church and in the world

Standing tall is not about elevating our ego, but about living into the freedom and dignity of our personhood.

Can we begin to imagine a world in which women stand tall?

Our inclination to bend seems to be written deeply within us.  It is recognized across many faith traditions. Integral theory proponent and author Ken Wilber has said that men need to bow to Buddha a thousand times a day and women need to stand up just as many times. For me, right now that looks like asking family, retreat centers, and others to accommodate some fairly burdensome dietary limitations.  (I had no idea how many foods contain night shade vegetables, MSG or MSG-like natural flavorings!) Why is it so hard to ask for myself when I would happily do for someone else?  I think it’s because somewhere inside there’s still a part of me living as a bent over woman.

We see many women in Scripture learn to stand tall:




 Jairus’ daughter

The women who followed him and watched at the cross

The woman caught in adultery

The woman who anointed Jesus

Jesus thought a woman’s freedom to stand tall was so important that he broke the law and healed this woman on the Sabbath. I hear in his actions a holy impatience: Not one more day did Jesus want this woman to live bent over.

Can we hear that healing and freeing passion now?  For us? For you and me?

On our pilgrimage to Germany last fall, I was struck by both the massive trees on the hill where the ruins of St. Hildegard’s monastery remain as well as several statues of St. Hildegard standing tall. In her life, she stood up against abbots, bishops, and royalty. She spoke up, at first hesitantly, later boldly about the visions God had given her, visions that reflected a more feminine spirituality that valued the earth and wholeness and welcomed all.

Will we dare to feel Jesus’ healing, freeing touch every time we are tempted to

make ourselves small?

apologize for existing or speaking?

diminish our accomplishments or contributions?

excuse those who exclude, silence, or diminish us?

forget our own needs or desires?

 It is not okay with Jesus for us to live bent over.

Did you hear that?

Living bent over is not an acceptable option to Jesus.

Repent, oh, woman. Stand tall. Stand tall.

How are you tempted to live bent over? What will it look like for you to stand tall today?







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