A recent Monitor editorial about the broader implications of giving Saudi women the right to drive (see “Saudi Arabia hands women the keys,” CSMonitor.com) helped me appreciate my own journey in breaking barriers in thought regarding women.
For instance, I once was appointed to a position that automatically made me a member of a regional ecumenical group. I was the only woman in a group of about 10 members, and the first woman to participate in this group in a number of years.
I approached this membership tentatively. At my first meeting, I was welcomed cordially, but I didn’t particularly feel I belonged. Still tentative at my second meeting, I was surprised to find that most of the members who had met me at the previous meeting didn’t even remember me, despite my being the only woman among them!
This was a wake-up call. I recognized that this was not a campaign, or even an intentional slight against me personally, but an opportunity for me to rise to a fuller, and more spiritual, concept of womanhood.
The most important role model for me in this regard is the woman who founded my church as well as this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy. Born in the United States in 1821, she lived in what was almost exclusively a man’s world, where the opportunity for women to contribute beyond the home was mostly suppressed. They were not allowed to vote and were not generally welcome as entrepreneurs, authors, or members of the clergy.
Through her life experience and a wholehearted quest to grasp and prove the nature of God, Mrs. Eddy came to understand the status of women from a fresh perspective. She came to see that womanhood is not dependent on human organizations, but is God-bestowed and powerful. This enabled her to go against the grain of expectation for women of her time. She wrote a revolutionary book, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” and founded several magazines and a church in which all members are equal. Her example of overcoming limitations and prejudice shines as a beacon of light for women’s rights across the globe.
Through her dedicated study of the Bible, Mrs. Eddy came to see that both manhood and womanhood represent equally vital attributes of God, the Father and Mother of us all. She wrote: “The ideal man corresponds to creation, to intelligence, and to Truth. The ideal woman corresponds to Life and to Love” (Science and Health, p. 517). Here Truth, Life, and Love are synonyms for God. When we begin to understand that everyone is actually the spiritual image and likeness of our Father-Mother God, it becomes clear that manhood and womanhood are on completely equal footing. This enables us to more fully demonstrate unlimited abilities in our lives, individually and collectively.
Inspired by this perspective, I saw I needed to embrace my place at that ecumenical table, literally and figuratively, as representing the womanhood of God – “corresponding to Life and Love” – both for myself and because I represented the Science of the Christ as discovered and articulated by a woman.
From that point my attitude toward the group completely changed. I began mentally cherishing the other members, recognizing all of us as part of God’s family, affirming that no one is invisible or inferior, but all are needed and valued. I recognized that not only did I have a place at God’s table, but it was a place of honor.
At the next meeting, everyone remembered me warmly, and a couple of members whom I hadn’t previously met told me how much they had been looking forward to meeting me. It was a new beginning and became a fruitful collaboration over the ensuing years.
According to the Bible’s opening chapter, God made all and made it good (see Genesis 1:31). All God’s children are equally blessed. We can all be witnesses to the spiritual reality that true manhood and true womanhood, having one divine source, commingle harmoniously and productively.