Like many of you, it is my practice to prepare for the day with quiet meditation and prayer. It was during such a time that I heard the words ‘you are a woman’ within my spirit. At the time, I had no idea of the relevance of that statement; but thought its interpretation must be a mystery well beyond female gender. Surely, there must be some deep meaning in those words. After all, they came during a time of meditation and prayer. But what could it be and why were those words given now? I had no idea, and tucked the words away in my memory to reflect on them at another time.
A few days later while taking a walk with my friend Maria she said the words ‘you are a woman’ during our conversation. There it was, that statement ‘you are a woman’. Was this conversation the context for which those words were initially given? I wasn’t sure; but along life’s journey a few lessons have been learned regarding first impressions and initial thoughts about a matter. Here is an example to illustrate one such lesson:
A woman was being interviewed for a department director position at a very large organization. She was very excited about this opportunity. Should she be offered this job it would be her first senior leadership position after many years of academic and practical preparation for such a role. During the interview the woman was made to feel quite comfortable, as if she were having a friendly conversation with the interviewer. The interviewer recounted an incident which happened as he was walking along a busy downtown street in California. In front of him was an extremely well dressed woman and he stated how polished and professional she appeared.
The street was crowded with people and after the interviewer passed the professionally dressed woman he thought he would look back to see her from the front. When he did so, he saw that she had a full beard. As expected, the woman being interviewed responded to this scenario. Later she stated, in a light-hearted manner, that she must not have given the correct response because she did not get the job. So, let us refrain from quickly jumping to conclusions about the matter at hand; but instead allow things to unfold in their own time.
The next revelation came when the name Sojourner Truth was placed in my spirit. One might assume that a mature African American woman would know a great deal about this heroic woman. The reality is that I knew very little and had never read or heard her famous speech titled Ain’t I a Woman?
This speech was delivered in 1851 at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio. Sojourner Truth spoke of how some men of her day viewed women as delicate and deserve to be assisted when they were getting into carriages and were to be given the best places to sit wherever they went. Then in contrast, she spoke of the hard labor she was forced to bear, how she was never given the choice seat, anywhere and asked the question, Ain’t I a Woman? Sojourner ended the speech by reminding the audience of how one woman in the Garden of Eden turned the world upside down. She pointed out that if just one woman could accomplish that, then more than one woman could turn the world right side up again.
I listened to oratory deliveries of the speech by several accomplished women such as; Alfre Woodard, Kerry Washington, Alice Walker and Cicely Tyson. Their performances allow one to realize just how powerful a simple oration may be. This speech, delivered in broken English by a former slave, seems divinely inspired. Not only is the speech inspiring, it is timeless. A simple yet profound message and so relevant during this time in the history of the United States of America as well as other parts of the world.
There are challenges and obstacles that we all face, no matter where we live. There are individual challenges and then there are those that are common to us all. One such challenge is how do we learn to live in our communities and societies in peace and harmony and to achieve the goal of liberty and justice for all?
After much thought, I concluded that the statement, you are a woman, is not a mystery at all. Rather, it is a mandate. The Lord God created women and there is no need wasting time reminding Him of who or where we are, or what we possess or do not possess. He has had plenty of experience with women, like the one Sojourner spoke about in the Garden of Eden. Perhaps we are being reminded of who we are and with that the ability of women to make long-term global changes from our individual places throughout the world. You are a woman and whether your contribution be great or small, known by many or few, get busy working to turn the world right side up again.
Now, let us again turn our attention to the professionally dressed woman walking along that downtown street in California. I have pondered that scenario many times. I had decided that the best response would be to say that the way an issue or situation appears is subject to one’s current vantage point. Yet, things are not always as they initially appear and it takes further inspection before a determination is to be made. Yes, that is good. But, for the context of this article, let us just say that a woman doesn’t need to resemble a man, while she’s getting the job done.
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