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Widow: Stigma or Strength?

When Joe died, one of the first things I thought was, I was his wife, and now I'm his widow.

Widow.  (bleh)

I have a love/hate relationship with this word.  

Any quick Google search will tell you the Greek word for widow in the Bible is χήρα, meaning deprived, cut off, 'stripped bare' or abandoned.  In the Bible, a widow is a woman 'bereft of the full provision or flourishing that could be provided by a husband or a family.' 
I've heard some say the word widow means desolate.  (double bleh)

For over half my life I identified by a few descriptions: wife and mom, mainly.  Of these, I was dang proud of - but when that moment happened, Joe was gone and the day continued on, I kept thinking well ... I guess I'm a widow now.  Who does that?  Who looks at the death of a spouse and thinks about their identity changing?  Me, I did.  It hit me harder than the tears did.  ...and that alone, consumed by grief, is where I found freedom. 

Let me explain.

Looking back it seems so silly that my mind automatically went there, but after much reflection I see now it was my altered identity that I felt like I lost too.  My identity had been so wrapped around the word 'wife', that I instantly grieved the loss of that, in addition to losing Joe. 
What I didn't know, is that God was about to do a major shift in me. For years, I sat in insecurity.  I sat in war with myself with this urge that there was more to my life than being a wife and a mom. 

I love my kids. 
I loved being a wife.
...but deep down, I longed for more. 

I didn't realize it at the time, but I believe that longing was a Holy Spirit urge to get up and move towards the calling he had placed on my
life.  I just didn't know how to listen to it then. 

If I'm being honest, I'm still learning how to listen to it. 
I'm refining my ears to hear his voice more clearly. 
It is a work in progress. 
I am a work in progress. 

I love being a work in progress, especially working side by side, co-creating with God through the Holy Spirit. 

This is a beautiful place to be in. 

It feels aligned. 
It feels right. 
It feels like I have direction and purpose now. 

This feeling, it's liberating.  When you can truly look at your life and say to God, Here I am.  Move in my life the way you want to, and then watch in awe as He does.  It's the most incredible feeling ever. 

But to get really real with y'all, this word freedom has been triggering for me lately.  I think for a lot of people, the word freedom - especially where I am in the context of being single and widowed - could mean something like sowing your oats and living unattached.  It was in these thoughts that I shared with a friend recently that freedom looks a lot different for me. 

Living unhappy, (un)surrendered, insecure, out of alignment with God's will and next steps for my life, felt very much like a prison.  It was a prison I had built around myself, and I held the keys.  There were several keys that I needed to use to open the doors.  There were doors that held me so deep into the prison that I didn't even know which one to start with.  Depending on the day or my mood, the doors would shift and one would become more of a priority.   When we live disconnected with God, we step out of his covering and protection. 

But very slowly, and intentionally, I learned how to unlock those doors.  One by one, I stepped forward and began to find freedom.  Freedom of happiness, freedom of security in who I am, freedom of living completely surrendered to God's next steps and being whole heartedly OK that He has my life in His hands.  These are the keys that unlocked the doors for me.   The safest place to be, is in the will of God.  (hello freedom!)

So, what's the shift?

I reclaimed my identity in Christ.  I reclaimed a one-on-one personal relationship with Jesus and started listening to his voice first.  I dropped all the other things I thought were my identity and started claiming what God calls my identity as my truth. 

(We had a great sermon on this last week at church, which I find so providential that God placed this teaching in my lap again.  The context is a bit different, but the message still applies.  I'll link it here: )

At the core of it, I think this is where a lot of widows get sucked into the vortex of this word, widow.  We wake up, life has instantly changed, and then it all spirals.  We lose our center, because our center wasn't on God to begin with - our center was on a person.  It really sucks going through a loss of this magnitude to bring that to reality, but if I believe anything, I believe God will use all things for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.  Romans 8:28

I refuse to accept the word widow as a stigma for my life. 
I refuse to be seen as desolate.
I refuse to be stripped bare. 
I refuse to believe that I am abandoned. 

I choose to believe God wants more for me, because He does. 

Jesus elevated women. 

We see this throughout the scriptures. I mean ... He first appeared to a woman after his resurrection.  Hello?!

He didn't treat women as second-class citizens. He turned the tables on culture and affirmed time and time again our value and dignity.  (Galations 3:26-28)

This gave me great hope in those early days.  Hope that I wasn't desolate, and hope that I could be strong - and that has turned into flipping the tables on the stigma of being widowed, and embracing this season with resolute strength.  It's up to me - up to us - to decide and discover our worth in Him, to tap into His infinite power and own our position as Daughters of the one true King.

Is this hard? No question. 
Will there be moments of doubt and insecurity?  You can bet on it.
Will you war and worry about finances?  Most likely. 
Will you struggle to single parent your kids?  Yes. 

But you have the choice to decide if you want to sit in that stigma, or develop it with strength. 

I wouldn't have chosen this path for my life, but I am embracing it.  I am embracing that I am a strong woman.  I have strength, because Jesus wanted me to, and gifted it to me - just as He has you.  I have strength because Jesus elevated all the women before me, and will continue to do it for every other woman after me.  Jesus wanted me to step into an identity of His daughter, His beloved - not an identity of widow. 

I am gifted and empowered by God. 
I was created, redeemed, blessed and gifted to be a blessing to those around me. 
My value is more precious than jewels, and my worth is far above rubies or pearls (Proverbs 31:10-12).

How about we sit in that identity?  ^^

This is where I find my strength. 

When I fully believed this, I was able to rest. 

Rest in my worthiness. 
Rest in peace. 
Rest because with Jesus, I have a steady, solid and safe place to dwell.

I urge you to get your fight back. 

Jesus elevated us because we have infinite value in advancing the Kingdom, and it's our duty to step into that value whole, and whole-heartedly.

When we know what we have, we are no longer desperate (desolate), and we're able to keep walking forward into taking back your crown.  Walk and talk like the royalty you are. 

You have the freaking Creator of the Universe backing you up - who else do you need validation from?

If that doesn't fire you up, I'm honestly not sure what will - but I'll say this to you very directly as someone did to me - Your life, your kids, are going to enjoy or suffer the outcome of what happens now.  You are responsible for what happens as an expression of your leadership within your home, and in your life. 

Don't you want that expression to be one of strength? 
I do. 

You may be asking, but how?  I'll tell you.

Begin again, with God. 

God doesn't want us to just know about Him.
He wants us to know him deeply and intimately. 

Start over. 
Be who He formed you, shaped you, and anointed you to be.

Your relationship with Him will be real and personal for you, just as unique as you were made.

Be intentional about it. 
Start small, but decide and engage your faith deliberately.
Faith the size of a mustard seed is enough to put demand on God.  (Matthew 17:20-21)

Show up with an expectant heart, and expect to be met by Him.

Commit.  Your obedience is the quickest path to your breakthrough. 

Pray.  Ask for God's help and power to help you root your identity in him, and that you find stability in your heart and mind in that new identity.
...and if you need some more scriptures on what God says about you, check these out:

I am the righteousness of God.  II Corinthians 5:21
I am saved and sanctified.  Ephesians 2:8
I am the light of the world.  Matthew 5:14
I am loved.  Jeremiah 31:3
I am a overcomer.  1 John 5:4
I am made new.  II Corinthians 5:17
I am His workmanship, His masterpiece. Ephesians 2:10
I am redeemed.  Ephesians 1:7
I am His child, a daughter of the most high God.  Ephesians 1:5
I am Holy and blameless.  Ephesians 1:4
I am blessed.  Ephesians 1:3
I am chosen.  Ephesians 1:4
I am Royal.  Ephesians 1:4
I am a victorious.  I Corinthians 15:57
I am forgiven.  Ephesians 1:7

Knowing the names that God calls you is the antidote to the enemies ways.  He sneaks in every way he can, through anxiety, low self-esteem, pride, shame and identity - and yes, by giving you the label of widow.   

When we put our perspective and identity in our maker alone, it is in Him that we find our true identity, our purpose and our essence. 

You are not what the world calls you. 
You are who God says you are. 

Knowing the names He calls you helps you reject every other label the world places on you, and allows you to rise up with His authority. 

Now, go own THAT as your strength.