In the wild, when a mama elephant is giving birth, all the other female elephants in the herd back around her in formation. They close ranks so that the delivering mama cannot even be seen in the middle. They stomp and kick up dirt and soil to throw attackers off the scent and basically act like a pack of badasses.
They surround the mama and incoming baby in protection, sending a clear signal to predators that if they want to attack their friend while she is vulnerable, they’ll have to get through 40 tons of female aggression first.
When the baby elephant is delivered, the sister elephants do two things: they kick sand or dirt over the newborn to protect its fragile skin from the sun, and then they all start trumpeting, a female celebration of new life, of sisterhood, of something beautiful being born in a harsh, wild world despite enemies and attackers and predators and odds.
Scientists tell us this: They normally take this formation in only two cases – under attack by predators like lions, or during the birth of a new elephant.
This is what we do, girls. When our sisters are vulnerable, when they are giving birth to new life, new ideas, new ministries, new spaces, when they are under attack, when they need their people to surround them so they can create, deliver, heal, recover…we get in formation. We close ranks and literally have each others’ backs. You want to mess with our sis? Come through us first. Good luck.
And when delivery comes, when new life makes its entrance, when healing finally begins, when the night has passed and our sister is ready to rise back up, we sound our trumpets because we saw it through together. We celebrate! We cheer! We raise our glasses and give thanks.” (Jen Hatmaker )
This is a #sheforshe community.
Life is beautiful and hard. And it’s God’s Word, God’s Spirit, and God’s people who help live well in the hard. We need each other to remind each other of God’s story about who we are. I need you to help me see myself clearly. We need you. I need you. “Encourage each other and build each other up.” (1 Thess 5:11) This is about cheering, reminding, encouraging, and inspiring each other to continue to live and love like Jesus.
Two women do this very well in Scripture. Elizabeth was an older woman and in her culture that meant highly respected, regarded, and sage-like. She was a prominent family and so was her husband. They lived in the suburbs of Jerusalem, the hippest spiritual town in Israel. As you know, Elizabeth was with child, a fact that could cause great shame for her and her family. An angel had appeared to her husband and informed him that Elizabeth was going to get pregnant and her child “will be great in God’s sight.”
Mary was young, unwed, and pregnant. She didn’t come from a big deal family, in fact, Luke stressed it’s Joseph who did; she lived in Nazareth, a military outpost, a nobody from nowhere. An angel came to her and said that she’s going to have a child and he will be great (whereas Elizabeth’s child will be great in God’s sight, Jesus is simply GREAT!)
She went to see Elizabeth, and Elizabeth could have rolled her eyes, judged her, and even shamed her. But she didn’t. In fact, she did something countercultural. She lifted the younger nobody and reminded her of what God is doing in her and through her by saying, “You are the mother of my Lord. You are blessed.”
She moved Mary to the front of the line. Elizabeth acknowledged Mary’s position, privilege, and status was greater than hers. Elizabeth even says,
“Your son is going to be greater than mine.” What mother does that?
Luke 1:6 states that Elizabeth was a righteous woman. The word righteous means, among other things, right relationships. Elizabeth was a woman right with God. She’s getting from God what only God can give so she can give out of that. I think that’s the key reason she acts in an ethic of multiplication, not scarcity. She reminded Mary, “Look who God made you to be. Look at what God is doing through you!”
This is what the OT said, and here’s how it’s playing out right now at this time in history. Mary was the first to proclaim the Gospel; the Good News that God’s King was coming, bringing in God’s kingdom on earth. Caesar Augustus was out, King Jesus was in. She belted out this revolutionary song. The magnificent is a subversive fighter’s song. If Herod heard it he’d have killed her. If Augustus heard it he’d have killed her. In the 1980s the government of Guatemala banned any public reciting of it because it was deemed politically subversive. Mary rose up and declared God is at work, in spite of what this would cost her, she trusted God with her unusual and difficult journey towards the fulfillment of God’s plan for humanity.
Elizabeth helped Mary see what she can’t see in herself. She inspired her to be what she already was. And more. She dreamed dreams of hope for Mary, a friend who could feel overwhelmed, hopeless, confused, and scared.
May we women hear the Christmas story anew.
May we be women who back up into formation and create healing spaces and places for our sisters to give birth new things in this wild and dangerous world.