When I get invited to speak at women’s events, by far the most popular topic is my “Embracing the Matriarch Within” presentation. This is due, in no small part, to the fact that the topic literally animates me while I speak. In fact, if someone were to tie my hands together and mark an “X” where I was expected to stand, I believe I would become mute.
Yes, I’m a spectacle when I speak – very much like I was when I taught in parochial middle school. I was a veritable jumping bean of enthusiasm for our faith, much to the chagrin of my students.
Fortunately for me, adult women are far more tolerant of my delivery methods than were my students.
No doubt they feel and see that I love talking about Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah and are quick to understand that what excites me will soon excite each of them.
What I have come to realize is that women tend to completely underestimate the great honor that we each have as matriarchs in our own families.
I’ve also come to see, with great interest, that one of the women who speaks volumes to women is Lot’s wife.
I know this because of all the comments I receive after the presentation.
“Wow, I never thought about Lot’s wife that way.”
“Gee, Lot’s wife taught me a lot today.”
“I will never look at Lot’s wife the same way again.”
Lot’s wife? You are probably asking yourself about now. Wasn’t she the gal who turned into a pillar of salt? Oh yeah, her life’s message is about obedience. She teaches us to listen and obey. And the excitement about her is because . . . .
And I’ll give you that you’d be half right if this is how you respond to hearing about Lot’s wife and the lesson that we are able to learn from her life.
But when I present my topics on the Matriarchs, I purposely include a number of other women – like Lot’s wife – who, upon closer examination have a deeper message for women today. Women who are not, by strict Jewish standards, considered “Matriarchs” but who, by the very essence of how they lived and what we can cull from their lives, deserve the title in a more esoteric way.
For instance, when I specifically speak about Lot’s wife, I share my belief that while the obvious message is one of obedience, the subtler message is one of “letting go.”
But let’s face it; women tend to struggle with the reality of living either message whether it is one of obedience or one of letting go. I’m not intentionally discriminating against men here. I’m just sharing my direct, personal experiences with women as friends, sisters-in-the-Lord, colleagues, and those I speak with at conferences.
Given our fallen nature, obedience is something we strive daily to attain but more than likely isn’t something we continually succeed at; likewise, letting go of past pains, hurts, and wrong-doings is not quite a woman’s strong suit either.
Women, I have come to see, suffer from what I now like to call “Lot’s Wife Syndrome.”
And I will freely admit to Lot’s Wife Syndrome being a chronic disease in my life, as well. This is probably why I have become so adept at recognizing it.
Every woman I know who is struggling with letting go of something from the past does so because her own heart has been pierced but also because it is in her nature to “hang on” and “persevere” – even with all her baggage in tow. (Here’s where you see me hauling my imaginary baggage across the stage and why I can’t be committed to speaking without hand gestures or being confined to a particular spot.)
Don’t get me wrong about these traits because they are the exact same traits – hanging on and persevering – that make each and every woman an excellent Matriarch candidate. The Matriarchs proper (Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah) remind us that we are able to be strong in the most difficult of circumstances and that we have an inherent ability to hold our families together through sheer will, want, and prayer. We learn from the Matriarchs how to rely on God’s grace and mercy. They set the groundwork for us to understand that Mary’s fiat is to our earthly lives what Christ’s death and resurrection is to our eternal life.
But life is about balance and so women need to learn how to balance their ability to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders with the need to let go of some of it – especially if they carry it to their own peril.
Lot’s wife didn’t want to let go of her ____; that blank can be filled in many different ways:
Lot’s wife didn’t want to let go of her life as she knew it.
Lot’s wife didn’t want to let go of her pain.
Lot’s wife didn’t want to let go of her hopes and dreams.
Lot’s wife didn’t want to let go of her sorrows as they had become her best friends.
And in not letting go, Lot’s wife paid the ultimate price – her life.
Now change the subject of the sentence to suit your own life:
________ did want to let go of her life as she knew it.
________ did want to let go of her pain.
________ did want to let go of her hopes and dreams.
________ did want to let go of her sorrows as they had become her best friends.
Maybe Lot’s wife was going to have one last look and then planned on throwing herself a pity party. Who knows? But I dare say we’ve all been there, done that. Knowing that it is in our own best interest to let go, leave the past behind, we still manage to make use of pains, hurts, sorrows or broken dreams in one way or another.
Did you know that heart disease is the number one cause of death for American women? This is according to the American Heart Association.
I offer that sidebar of information because it seems to make the lessons of Lot’s wife all the more pertinent for women today. “Letting go” allows our bodies a modicum of stress-relief and frees us to laugh and enjoy more of life. Laughter produces the endorphins and neurotransmitters that reduce stress – often a contributing factor to heart disease. And while I am no doctor, I know that the heavier the load we drag behind us, the more burden it places on our minds, bodies and especially our hearts – emotionally and physically – and thus is best left behind. (Imagine me dragging my baggage ever more slowly across the stage, now stooped by its burdensome weight and size.)
All this isn’t to say that we ought to let go of things without having first let them serve their purpose in our lives. After all, it is often the things that wound us most that also allow us to build virtues such as compassion, kindness, forgiveness and fortitude. But there is a fine line between the building of virtuous characteristics and sending invitations to a full-blown pity party.
We aren’t meant to become martyrs in our own eyes but should be witnessing to the facets of a faith that will draw others in. That involves experiencing pain and sorrow, regret and dashed dreams, as well as what we do with those experiences. Here’s where Lot’s wife becomes a blatant reminder: Do Not Look Back!
This also isn’t to suggest that certain damages, neglects, or abuses from one’s past should be taken lightly or will be forgotten just through sheer, brute will. And in some cases it is clear that professional counseling or services is a necessary part of “letting go.”
But for most of us, letting go is simply a daily “giving over” to Christ. It is that moment in the morning when our thoughts and words turn to Jesus and we share our trust in Him and how He will guide our day, ever at our side.
Editor’s Note: Cheryl Dickow is the author of “Our Jewish Roots: A Catholic Woman’s Guide to Fulfillment Today by Connecting with Her Past.” Cheryl’s website is www.BezalelBooks.com and her phone number is 248-917-3865.
Copyright 2011 Cheryl Dickow