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I will be honest, the last couple of weeks have been hard. And would you believe it has nothing to do with Covid, pandemic restrictions, or even vaccinations? This was a different kind of hard. This hard was fueled by swirling negative self-talk and comparisons with other women in which I always ended up short. Old wounds were uncovered in my heart, and with those old wounds came powerful feelings of not being good enough, of feeling less than, of feeling ugly. I was emotionally leveled. 

And all of this happened to bubble up to the surface during a week in which I was planning the ending celebration of my women’s group’s 33-day Consecration to St. Joseph, my youngest was preparing to graduate from kindergarten, my husband was working longer hours on a big project, and my older children were in need of me to help them study for their finals, not to mention being the point person for all of the drop-offs and pick-ups for the various activities that they were now back to. My daily responsibilities were not going to stop just because my emotions and old wounds were getting the better of me. 

I’m not proud to admit that my go-to response has always been to push through the day, do what was needed of me and/or what was required of me and then crawl into bed, pull the covers up, let those negative thoughts wash over me, and succumb to them. I tend to isolate, withdraw, and not allow anyone into my hurt...including God. My seven years of Bible study through Walking with Purpose has strengthened my relationship with Christ, and I know that the enemy is cunning, “prowling around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). At that point, however, I was not strong enough to resist the attack. My rational brain was throwing red flags up everywhere, telling me that this was exactly what the enemy—the “father of lies'' (John 8:44)—does, this is his game plan, this is where he wants me—isolated, alone, despairing, and questioning my worth. My defenses were weak this time around. I stayed right where I was and I believed every lie. This ultimately led to heightened anxiety and rising levels of anger and frustration. My behavior toward those I love most (hint: my husband and children), therefore, was less than stellar, and not my finest moment.

But what the enemy did not count on this time around was that in these past seven  years of WWP, the Lord had been intentionally placing women in my life who He knew I needed alongside me on my journey. Don’t you just love God?? The Lord had been cultivating these authentic friendships in my life in order to grow the fruits of healing and unconditional love. It was these fierce women who picked me up when I was too weak to fight this battle alone, who picked up their own shields of faith to place in front of me and defend me from the arrows of the enemy. These women called me out of the darkness of isolation and into the light of community in Christ. 

This journey that we are on, sisters, we were never meant to be on alone. From the beginning, the Lord meant for us to be in relationship. We were each made in the image and likeness of God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As the three persons of the Holy Trinity are in communion with each other, so too are we called to be. Mary DeTurris Poust writes in her book, Walking Together, “We see in the three personas of the Trinity an openness. The Father, Son and Spirit are generous with one another and in constant connection...the three personas are distinct and separate from each other, never in danger of overtaking one another or suppressing one another. There is a harmony there [emphasis added].”[1]  When our friendships are rooted in God, there is a true desire for the other to flourish. There is no judgment or comparison between each other. There is building up, not tearing down. 

We can see examples of holy friendships throughout Scripture. In the Old Testament, Ruth displays fierce loyalty and faithfulness as she refuses to leave Naomi, and instead accompanies her to Naomi’s family’s home—a place where the culture, language, and traditions were unknown to Ruth. “For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God,” Ruth tells Naomi (Ruth 1:16). And Naomi reciprocates these feelings as she urges Ruth toward a marriage with a kind and loving man, telling her, “My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you” (Ruth 3:1). These women desired true happiness for one another. 

The greatest examples we have of holy friendships are those between Jesus and His chosen disciples. He called each one to follow Him, seeing special gifts unique to each person. Knowing these men and women would be called for a greater mission after His death, He helped them along their paths toward holiness. He inspired virtue and called out lies and prejudices. He declared truth into their hearts and modeled trust, compassion, and forgiveness. Jesus knew that His disciples would need each other. He sent them out during His ministry two by two (Luke 10:1). And just as He reminds them “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20), so too does He remind us that when we ground our friendships in Him, He will be there too. 

Are you seeking harmony in your relationships? Are the friendships you have right now ones that keep you on the path of virtue and in the pursuit of holiness? Sister, are you spending time with others who edify you, who call out your gifts, and encourage you to be a better version of yourself? If not, spend time in prayer, asking for the Lord to lead you to these women. And if you are lucky enough to have these women already in your life, say a prayer of thanksgiving, and then invite these blessed friends back to community and fellowship with you. 

[1] DeTurris Poust, Mary. (2010). Walking Together: Discovering the Catholic Tradition of Spiritual Friendship. Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, pp. 21-22.

As I walked to my favorite coffee shop in downtown St. Augustine to write this post, I nestled into a fitting mental posture by reciting the word, “warrior,” over and over again. As I did, all sorts of quintessential, warrior-esque images popped into my mind's eye. I thought of Merida from Brave and Katniss from The Hunger Games and I imagined myself in my fiercest, “I'm a strong independent woman” karate pose. You know what I'm talking about? Like the kind of warrior self-image in which you're donning head-to-toe black leather with a Cat Woman-like mask and an unstoppable look on your face which declares to the world that you are ready to take on anything and everything? If you've never imagined yourself like this, give it a try. I promise, you will instantly feel like the courageous warrior that you are.

Let me begin by saying, I love this image of women as warriors. I grew up hearing, “You are a princess because you are a daughter of the King.” This is fine and sweet and fluffy and wonderful, but it just doesn't satisfy. I want to be more than a princess. I want to be a warrior.

Search “warrior” in the dictionary and you will discover this definition: “a person engaged or experienced in warfare; a person engaged in some struggle or conflict.” (1)

So a warrior doesn't just get to run around in leather pants with a bow and arrow in hand? No. A warrior is in battle. That's right, presently, in battle. This is what makes her a warrior. This is what sets her apart. She is a fighter.

And this is why, while we may be at the end of Fearless and Free in this final stage titled, “The Warrior,” we are nowhere near done. The true warrior is in a perpetual embrace with “The Wakening” and “The Wrestling.” She may be fierce, but as such, she must be prepared to be continuously engaged in some struggle or conflict.

I love this because the empowerment that comes with a warrior status is not diminished by struggle and conflict, it is defined by struggle and conflict. You cannot be a warrior without living in a present battle. This means, being a warrior does not mean you are perfect. Being a warrior means you are ready and willing to fight through brokenness.

This truth found in Fearless and Free is so important because it is real. We cannot reach the end of this study, pop a bottle of champagne and celebrate our newfound warrior status. Instead, as we end this study, we must throw on our armor (or leather pants), embrace our beloved identity and bravely step into the battle set before us. The mess won't disappear just because we now know it exists and how to deal with it. The enemy won't stop trying to take us down. We won't stop feeling broken. But now, we know how to rise strong. Now, we know how to fight back. Now, we are mature and equipped women of God.

Here's the difference: now that we are warriors, what the enemy intended to use for our destruction, the Lord will be able to use for our healing. (2) Now that we are aware of the enemy's tactics and know how to respond, “God will reshape the very thing the enemy intends to use to take [us] down into something that brings [us] growth and blessing.” (3) But, this transformation and healing won't come without some pain.

True warriors are injured in battle all of the time. True warriors recognize their weaknesses. They are humble and recognize that brokenness is okay. Warriors face triggers daily and the wrestling is ferocious.

But ladies, be encouraged in this truth that you are more than a princess. You are a warrior. Jesus died on the cross to save you and He is fighting with you and for you and before you.

Rest in the promise that despite the inevitability of future trials, the Lord will use every ounce of pain for your greater good. He has the ability to transform brokenness into blessing. He can make you whole.

So, believe that you are a warrior. Believe that you are strong. And, prepare yourself for battle. Never lose sight of the wakening and the wrestling because they comprise your identity as a beloved warrior. I pray that as you go forth, you would cling to truths and toss aside lies. Remember that, “after Good Friday, we have Easter,” and more than anything, wait in confident expectation for God's promises. He will fulfill them when you least expect Him to. I implore you - just keep fighting. (4)

In love and peace,

Angelina

PS: Join me on Instagram Live this Thursday, June 21st at 10 AM EST! A willingness to dive into what it means to be a warrior is required. Leather pants and coffee are optional but highly encouraged. See you there! Oh and don't forget to send in any thoughts, questions, or comments to community@walkingwithpurpose.com.

(1) https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/warrior

(2) Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Fearless and Free (Walking with Purpose, 2018), 110.

(3) Fearless and Free, 137.

(4) Fearless and Free, 137.

 

 

 

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