In my twenties I struggled to form deep meaningful friendships. Don’t get me wrong, I had friends, but I had a hard time trusting and being fully present in those friendships. This led to me feeling alienated and lonely and not being fully known. How do you allow others to know you when you are a stranger to yourself?
At the time, I lacked the bravery to be vulnerable and the ability to be honest about what I wanted in a friendship. A few years ago, I decided that I will not settle for anything but the best in friendship. However, that required me to do the internal work needed to become vulnerable and authentic in friendship.
The story of Elizabeth and Mary gave me hope. The story showed me that my desire for deep genuine friendship has been part of God’s plan; it is a beautiful thing to build healthy friendships which bring honour to our Father.
The book of Proverbs speaks about how a friend sticks closer than a brother, so true friendship can create true sisterhood. Sisterhood is sacred and precious in the sight of Father in Heaven.
In Luke 1, we read about these two extraordinary women (Mary and Elizabeth) whose sons were about to shake things up in the world. One woman was to birth a son who would prepare the way for the saviour, and the other women would birth the Son of God.
Elizabeth was married to Zechariah, who served as a priest. Both Elizabeth and Zechariah were advanced in age and the Bible speaks of their character, saying that they were both upright in the sight of God. However, Elizabeth was barren. Notice how being upright in the sight of God does not guarantee that things in our lives will work perfectly, but we serve a God who enables us to do all things.
Back then, a barren woman was despised and unvaluable. The value of a woman was based on the number of sons that they produced, and if could not produce sons, you would be worthless and without the support and respect of family and community. A barren woman was under tremendous scrutiny, and experienced severe social and emotional distress. They experienced the ridicule and possible rejection of their spouse, family, and communities. They would have to endure the never-ending gossip and endure the assumptions of how their bareness came about.
However, we serve a God who is able to vindicate you from any situation. There was a reason for Elizabeth’s waiting period- her son was to play a pivotal role in the coming of the Messiah. Had he been born earlier he wouldn’t have fulfilled this prophecy to prepare the way. The lesson we learn here is about timing. We need to trust God with everything in our lives, because he knows it all and sees it all. He cannot lie because he is God!
While Zechariah was performing his priestly duties, an angel appears before him, informing him that he would be a father. You can go read about the incredible account in Luke 1 vs 11 – 20. Doubt and fear had taken hold of his heart because hope deferred makes the heart sick (Proverbs 13 vs 12). His heart was sick of the disappointment of not being able to have an heir. The thought of hoping again was just too daunting for him.
Our doubt never can and never will stop the promises of God. His will, will be fulfilled. Shortly after Zechariah’s encounter with the angel, Elizabeth fell pregnant and for five months she remained in seclusion.
Elizabeth was old but now found herself waiting on a promise that seemed to have taken forever to arrive. She knew disappointment, she knew shame, she knew what it felt like to be spoken about behind your back, she knew and saw the pity in people’s eyes. She knew what it was like not to be valued or seen simply because your womb was not producing sons. She had encountered and lived with the private and public shame of being a barren woman. She lived with a deep longing of a having children, and she had learned to celebrate her family’ members and friends’ who kept falling pregnant over the years.
The waiting seasons of our lives are never easy, and they often don’t make sense to us. We doubt the goodness of God, we doubt his character and we doubt ourselves. If you are in a waiting season right now, I would like to remind you that God is incapable of lying. He would not be God if he lied. Trust him, He is the Alpha and Omega, and his timing is always perfect. Elizabeth’s waiting had a purpose. Her son had to arrive at an appointed time to prepare the way for Jesus.
The timing had to be perfect. Proverbs 3 vs 16 says to “trust in the Lord with all your heart and all your mind, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and he will make your path straight”. Trust the God who takes us through these processes because he always has a purpose.
In the meantime, on the other side of the countryside, an angel appears to Mary, who was engaged to be married.
The angel basically says to Mary, look you are highly favoured, and you have been chosen by God to give birth to his son. Oh, by the way Mary, just so happened to be an unmarried young virgin! Do you have any idea what happened to women back then when they fell pregnant out of wedlock?!
Out of wedlock pregnancy would bring shame to the entire family, and it would bring shame to the girl including gossip and rejection. You would become an outcast and the topic of every conversation. You would be that girl that mothers warned their daughters against forming a friendship with you. Knowing all of this, God chose this situation for Mary, and she in faith chose to believe God, because His ways are always perfect.
We must choose to believe in His character, particularly when His will does not make sense to us. I absolutely love Mary’s response to the angel in Luke 1 vs 38- she says, “I am the Lord’s servant; may it be to me as you have said”.
God has never called any of us to walk this life alone, or to journey through difficult situations by ourselves. In verse 36 the angel mentions to Mary that “Elizabeth is six months pregnant, she who was said to be barren, for nothing is impossible with the Lord”. God linked these two women together to walk this journey together- a journey no one else would begin to comprehend. God linked them together to bring two very important sons into the world. Their journey was going to be very different yet very similar.
God will always provide sisters that can walk a journey with us if we are willing to come out of our comfort zone, by choosing to live bravely, vulnerably, and imperfectly.
The Bible says that Mary hurried and went to see Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice the baby leaped in her womb, and she was filled with the Holy Spirit and blessed Mary! This whole exchange always fills my heart with Joy. Two women celebrating each other will never get old.
What can we learn about sisterhood from these two mighty women?
God will always provide a friend to walk a journey with you. He linked these two women together to be a source of encouragement to each other. Elizabeth had learnt how to deal with shame, rejection, and scrutiny from the community. Mary was about to discover very quickly the same.
She needed someone that would remind her, “blessed are you Mary among women and blessed is the child you bear”! We all need friends that will remind us of the truth of what God has called us to do, particularly when we get discouraged or when we choose to listen to the wrong voices.
Elizabeth said to Mary, “but why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Elizabeth was not insecure in confirming and affirming that Mary was carrying the Son of God. She acknowledged it, confirmed it, and spoke it.
Be the kind of sister who is not threatened by the things that God has called your friend to be. Elizabeth was secure in her role of birthing a child whose main role was to serve and prepare the way for her much younger cousin’s son, who was the Son of God. There was no room for comparison in their roles, because the one would not exist without the other! Be content in your lane sister, be the sister that I would want to run to when God has said the craziest thing to me, and I am freaking out. Be the one who would affirm the truth and remind me of the truth!
Elizabeth did not show any hint of Jealousy!!!! So, stop being Jealous!!! She could have said “why does she get to carry the Son of God? She is so young? She has no experience. She didn’t even struggle to get pregnant”!! Blah, blah, blah. If you are someone that struggles with jealousy and struggles to celebrate your sisters, just STOP!!! Nothing kills a friendship faster than jealousy.
Elizabeth saw the honour and the privilege of being Mary’s friend. When was the last time your heart was filled with a sense of gratitude about the friends you have? Have they opened their lives and hearts to you? These women did and we should take their examples.
Healthy sisterhood and friendship are possible!! The kind of sisterhood where we know our mutual boundaries and respect for those boundaries, where we love, we cry, we rebuke, we celebrate etc. Those friendships are possible, and you are worthy of them.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice, she was filled with the Holy Spirit. Do you have sisters or are you a sister that is filled with the Holy Spirit? Sisters that will pray for you and stand in the gap for you? Are you that sister?
A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret. Do you have sisters or are you a sister that keeps confidence? Are you a member of the “not so holy grapevine club” who is ready to talk about your sister’s business in public because you want to share news about others so “people can pray”? Mary could go to Elizabeth because she would be a safe person to and for her.
Perfection is not required to build a healthy sisterhood, because perfection is only found in Jesus. However, you need to deal with your trauma and seek help. Our traumas will always impact the people in our lives, and they will also benefit from our healing.
Be your sister’s keeper, by being the sister you need or would like to have.
Women of Reverence welcomes guest blogger Sandra Zaca.
Sandra B Zaca is a wife, a mom of 3, a survivor of sexual abuse and recent graduate in Psychology and Political Science. She is a business owner, motivational speaker, blogger and NLP-Certified Life Coach who is currently competing for the Mrs South Africa crown.
She is a big advocate for healthy marriage and family because she believes that healthy marriages and families are fundamental to healthy societies. She is committed to standing up for the girl child as well as the boy child.
Sandra has survived sexual, emotional and physical abuse in her younger years and through her blog and YouTube channel she shares her experiences to encourage and educate others. Fleeing the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1995, she and her family of seven arrived in South Africa as refugees, at the dawn of democracy. This was after a long journey, mostly on foot, through Southern Africa, even spending nearly two years in a Malawian refugee camp.
As a refugee, she has slept on the street, gone many a night and day without food, even attending school without meals, endured xenophobic discrimination and suffered bullying throughout her high-school years. Having arrived in South Africa without knowing any of the officials languages, she successfully taught herself English and managed to earn a matric pass, 4 years later.
Her story is filled with suffering and trauma, but is also with hope, fortitude, forgiveness and compassion. Sandra’s story is a great example of what God the transformation that the pursuit of God can do. Sandra gave her life to Jesus at 19 years old, and though friends, various ministries, local church and many hours of therapy in counseling, she has now arrived at a place where she has found healing from her past traumas. She always says say that she believes in Jesus and His resurrected power, but that she also believes in therapy.
Sandra is currently a semi– finalist in the Mrs South Africa 2021 competition. She says that her reason for entering this prestigious competition is to demonstrate to her daughter (and to her sons and other women) that despite whatever “bad” start one has in life, that achieving one’s dreams is possible. She is an example of tenacity, of hard work and of dreaming big.
The Mrs South Africa “pageant” has evolved over the years and gained a reputation as a true Women- Empowerment Program that prides itself on producing the very best for the real, relatable and modern South African women.
Through the journey, in pursuit of the Mrs South Africa crown, women discover the very best versions of themselves. They discover that they are never too young nor too old to chase their dreams and to be a voice for change.
Sandra plans to use this opportunity and platform to support victims of gender-based violence and xenophobia in South Africa. As a survivor of sexual, psychological and physical abuse, she aims to use the opportunities that she getting to empower women and children so that they can heal, find their own voice and bring their true selves.
She also advocates for the boy child- so that they are raised to be men of integrity and courage, who will protect women and children. She is a role model and coach to many younger women- and encourages them to be authentically and unapologetically their true and fabulous selves. Winning Mrs South Africa would amplify her voice and send out her message to a wider audience.
You can support her on this journey to the crown by voting for her. Send “Sandra Zaca” a 35959 via text message to show your support. There is no limit on SMS, and each SMS costs R3. Follow her on Instagram @sandrabzaca and like her Facebook page, SandraBZaca.