Stepping into Uncharted Territory

Im curious what it must have been like for the women in the Gospels to respond to Jesuss call and mission. What must it have felt like for Mary to stay in the room and learn from Jesus when she was expected to sit elsewhere? Was it vulnerable or awkward for Joanna, Susanna, and Mary to travel with Jesus as part of His team, no longer defined by their pasts but fully committed to His present and future mission? Then later, did it take all their courage to proclaim Jesuss resurrection, the most important news in the world, knowing their voices werent validated and taken seriously by law?

Jesus redefined their lives, values, identities, and mission. He also redefined their community and the world they lived in.

When the women were commissioned (alongside the men!) and the early church began, they were launched into the great unknown. There were no road maps or GPS for the journey they were now exploring. I cant help but wonder how long it took Lydia to persuade Paul and his team to stay at her home and how her offer might have been perceived. Wider society was sometimes enthralled by the church, and at others time they brutally persecuted the believers, women included. Even so, the gospel was still spreading across the known world, and some historians note that Christianity was particularly popular among women in the early life of the church because women in the church were often afforded higher status and opportunity than in their wider community.10 Wouldnt it be amazing if one day todays church was like the early church, known for being particularly compelling to women because it was a place of value, affirmation, and empowermentjust like Jesus?

Still, who could possibly be the mentors and guides as the first generation of women in the church? Who could help them navigate what it meant to live fully and freely as commissioned and called women in a world that didnt always see their potential? To explore life in Christ in the face of old stories and cultural mores? At least the old way was familiar. But now the pathway was not only unfamiliar but unprecedented. A brand-new path was unfolding with every step they took. The women had one another and a group of men all exploring this new life together. Yet they all (men and women) had a transformational, compelling relationship with Jesus. They were empowered by Him and given gifts from Him. Commissioned into the world by Him, through their relationship with Him, Jesus illuminated the pathway as they walked into the unknown.

Two thousand years later, Jesus is still moving. We serve a God who fully sees us, loves us, and meets us where we are. He is a savior who walks where weve walked and touches our lives with His power, and He transforms the most broken and bloodied parts of our stories with His resurrective power. Jesus is a savior, friend, king, and liberatorand a man like no other before or since. But as wonderful as that is, it doesnt end with our own individualized, personalized transformation package. After all, as filmmaker Ava DuVernay said, If your dream only includes you, its too small.

To follow Jesus leads to more, because Jesuss final words to His followers on earth were a commission to His disciples, a command to play our part in His Great Commission and make disciples of all peoples. To follow one who is making all things new. Its a commission to represent Him in a world shifting too fast for humans to handle, a commission to invest all the gifts, abilities, and talents Hes given to influence the world for good. Its not a radical, culturally palatable premise for women, nor a way for the church to keep up with the changing face of society. No, women living into their God-given influence is very old good news. Its as old as the Gospels, as old as Old Testament figures such as Deborah, and as old as an ancient garden called Eden.

Hes inviting you.

Hes calling you.

He has already commissioned you.

And hes waiting for your response.

Jo Saxton is an author, speaker, podcaster, and entrepreneurial coach. Born to Nigerian parents and raised in London, Jo brings a multicultural and international perspective to her leadership training for women. A sought-after speaker, Jo has a diverse calendar addressing universities, churches, national conferences, nonprofits, and corporations, including Q, Catalyst, Evereve, NoonDay Collection, LakeShore Media, and internationally in the U.K. and Australia. She is co-host of the podcast Lead Stories and the founder of the Ezer Collective, an initiative that equips women in leadership. Jo is the author of three books, including The Dream of You.

Excerpted from Ready to Rise: Own Your Voice, Gather Your Community, Step into Your Influence. Copyright 2020 by Jo Saxton. To be published by WaterBrook, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, on April 14. Used by permission of WaterBrook, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Photo Credit: Getty Images/Farknot Architect

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