Women are made to give life. Before anyone shuts down on me, I don’t just mean that women are simply made to have babies. Sure, there is that obvious and very amazing way of giving life—actually giving birth to another human. But truly being a “life-giver” goes far beyond the physical sense of the word.
I first heard about the concept of women as life-givers through a Bible study. It’s true that my Christian faith continues to shape my understanding, but I have learned what it means, what it truly looks like, to be a life-giver from several different women in my life, some who wouldn’t claim Christianity at all.
Over the years I have realized that my interactions with other people have been mostly captive to my emotions. I spoke kindly when I felt happy and optimistic, and I became impatient and short-tempered when I felt stressed or tired. When I learned that in every given moment and every interaction I have the choice to speak life or death to people around me, it was a revelation. Could it be that I have the choice to nurture or destroy with every word or look? As I became more and more purposeful about how I interacted with the people around me and took notice of how positively my relationships were affected, I began to see the power of choosing to give life. Our society would have us believe that power comes only to those who raise their voices the loudest or apply the greatest amount of force. I don’t believe that’s true. I now believe there is much more potential in everyday choices than we realize. I believe that we as women have much more life-giving power than we ever imagined.
We can all choose whether or not to speak irritably to a whiny child or complain about a troublesome friend, client, or spouse. We can choose to answer softly instead of snapping at someone who first snaps at us. We can encourage a complaining friend. We can take a deep breath and repeat the same directions, again, to a child who never seems to listen the first time. We can choose to use our life-giving words and actions to breathe life into every situation and every person around us. How does that affect my choice of tone and my words? How does that allow me freedom to step outside of comfort and into someone else’s heartache?
To understand my choices I have to see what it really means to be a life-giver. A life-giver sacrifices, encourages, forgives, sees, creates, builds, instills hope, makes new, breathes fresh starts, gives grace, recognizes potential and calls it by name, bears burdens, and lives in a way that heals. Looking at this image conversely, we can also imagine what it means to be a life-taker. It seems to come down to this difficult absolute: we’re either giving life with everything we do and say or taking life in the same way. Unfortunately, there really doesn’t seem to be much neutral ground here.
To illustrate this, I want to share with you three tales of life-givers. These life-givers represent the women who have taught me that being a life-giver can look very different yet still be united by the same pervasive joy of sacrificing for the sake of another. You might recognize these women in your life. . . . You may actually be these women. I believe we can all be these women.
Our first life-giver is my friend and a single mom who has faced many challenges over the years. She never uses those challenges as an excuse for not giving her children everything she can. She was counseled by family members to have an abortion, more than once, to avoid lifelong difficulty, yet she chose, more than once, to give her babies life. True, in her case, life-giving actually started out with bearing children for nine months and giving birth but hasn’t stopped there. This woman works when she can, but it’s been hard for her to hold down a job due to inconsistencies with childcare and transportation. When she had to miss her son’s kindergarten graduation due to work, she spent her last bit of grocery money to buy him a bunch of balloons. While that seems frivolous to some of us, she wanted her son to feel special, so she sent this spectacle of “I love you” Mylars to graduation with her neighbor. She doesn’t usually have time to help her kids with homework because of her job, but she often tells them sternly that they’re very smart and better study hard to get into college. This woman gives life to her family by sacrificing everything she has on a daily basis.
Our next life-giver found out several years ago that she and her husband aren’t able to physically bear children. While she has longed to adopt, so far he hasn’t been ready, and so the years pass. Yet this woman gives life every day. She writes beautiful, descriptive words that enlighten the soul and fill the mind with images and ideas. She nurtures plants in a front yard garden that brings new life to her neighborhood, and she has nursed a menagerie of stray animals back to health. As a high school teacher, she coaches her students to treasure the written and spoken word and to communicate their ideas through debate and theater. She once told me that she fears growing old and bitter, but her creativity and passion simply radiate the opposite. This woman gives life by changing the world around her for the better in small but oh-so-significant ways.
Our third life-giver is a mother in the traditional sense. She has two biological children. She started a blog a while back but rarely remembers to update it, and for birthdays she attempts the cute cake patterns she finds on Pinterest, but they often turn out more like the “hilariously awful cake fails” on Buzzfeed. She is also a mother in less traditional ways. Besides her two biological children, she also gives life to many more. She and her husband “temporarily” took in a little girl whose mother asked them to care for her while she went away to Army Boot Camp. Five years later, the girl, not so little anymore, remains in their home. This woman believes that when she became a mother she suddenly became aware of every other child in the world. And so she prays for the neighborhood kids. She prays for the Compassion International kids her family sponsors. She prays for the all of the kids in the orphanage her friends are adopting from in Sierra Leone. And she prays for the kids in the grocery store this morning, whose weary mother yelled at them in front of everyone. This woman gives life by advocating for children and spiritually mothering them all through prayer as if they were her own.
I, like you, could tell the tale of many more life-givers: the college women in our church who took a special interest in my daughter and mentored her through the teenage years, or the nanny who shares my sister’s load, picking up kids after school, asking how their day was, commiserating with them over bad grades and mean boys. How about the babysitter who helped me potty-train my kids and loved them like a grandmother so that I could teach? And we can’t forget all the grandmothers who spoil their grandchildren or the grandmothers who raise a second set of kids because their own parents can’t.
There are women who heal and comfort sick and hurting strangers in the ER and women who speak kindly to you as you enter and leave the bank. Women who write songs that play over in our minds and women who teach people to play instruments and sing. Women who teach us how to stay healthy, and women who make our nails and hair pretty, or women who counsel us when we can’t find our way. The list could go on forever.
If being a life-giver is determined by what we say and do, then we as women hold the power of life and death in the simple choices we make. What if the words we speak are the only life-giving words heard all day? What if our actions are the only life-giving works experienced all day? Then it matters what we say and do. We can become the life-givers in our own tales. We can watch with amazement the life-giving tales of women around us. We can celebrate the life-givers we were made to be.
Hether Pflasterer is a wife, mother, and educator. Her husband is the pastor of City Fellowship Baptist Church, and she is the founder of Baby University, a support network for families in our city providing childhood development information and resources. For more information, visit www.mybabyuniversity.org.