7 Women and the Secrets of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas
2020, book #8: “Whether we like it or not, men and women are inextricably intertwined. Because the bible says that we are made in God’s image — ‘male and female He created them’ (Gen. 1:27)” — Eric Metaxas
Finished on February 8, 2020
This book was given to me from the National Christian Foundation of South Florida through their LifeWork Leadership class. I took part in this alongside 6 other people in the business and leadership school at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Once a month, we would meet on a Thursday and have the opportunity to network, converse, and learn from business and faith leaders in South Florida.
Right away, the book was interesting to me. The author emphasized the connection between men and women, between male and female. Unique in many ways yet connected in many others. The framing of the book was fascinating to me. I found it interesting to think about the way that women really have changed over time. By God’s design male and female were distinct, different, and complementary. Throughout history both men and women have compromised who they were for the sake of a partner. “Men have denied themselves the fullness of manhood God intended for them.” That was a crazy thought to grasp as fully as I could.
Pg. xviii, Whether we like it or not, men and women are inextricably intertwined. Because the bible says that we are made in God’s image — ”male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27) — the fortunes of one are so linked to the fortunes of the other that there is no way to lift without lifting the other and no way to degrade without degrading the other. So whenever men have used their positions of authority or their power to denigrate women, they have denigrated themselves and have denied themselves the fullness of manhood God intended for them. When women have tried to ape the behavior of power-hungry men, they have degraded themselves and denied themselves the dignity of being above that vulgar fray.
Susanna Wesley was the first woman that the book focused on. What was most amazing to me was the way that she fully embraced everything about herself. She spent time in many areas and the author emphasized her influence on her son John. For those who don’t know, John Wesley founded the Methodist movement which was also interesting to study further in the book.
Pg. 56, Few human beings have influenced the world as Susanna Wesley did. The manner in which she taught her children greatly influenced the work of her son, John, and the Methodist movement he founded led to world-changing revival and to such an array of social reforms as can never be calculated.
Pg. 57, Anyone believing that the life of a woman dedicated to her family must be less than optimal cannot know the story of Susanna Wesley. Despite poverty, illness, a difficult marriage, and heartbreak in endless forms, she used her intellect, creativity, time, energies, and will in such a way that can hardly be reckoned. The world in which we live owes much of the goodness in it to her life.
I love the premise of the book that she authored — compassionate marriage. Personal compatibility and true partnership is what makes any marriage a great one rather than simply a mediocre or good marriage. I always find it interesting when people publish books such as this without identifying themselves. I would love to have the ability to delve deeper and ask her why she did so anonymously.
Pg. 83, Hannah More anonymously published her only novel, Coelebs in Search of a Wife. As with so much else she wrote, this two-volume novel was an immediate best seller. In its pages she again put forward the progressive idea of a “compassionate marriage,” based not on economic advancement or political prudence, as were most marriages in those days, but on personal compatibility. Here again, we have the powerful advocacy of the president Hannah to thank for pushing forward something we now take entirely for granted.
Saint Maria was very interesting to me and she experienced many dramatic things throughout her lifetime that others of us may never experience. The part I highlighted was a truly pivotal moment in her life.
Saint Maria of Paris
Pg. 96, She could no longer be a mother to Nastia, but she would be a mother to everyone she encountered, a mother to the world. In one version of the story, it was actually Evlogy who suggested the move. “I could never be a good nun,” said Elizabeth. “I know,” answered Evolgy. “But I would like you to be a revolutionary nun.”
We studied Corrie ten Boom in college. Throughout my Christian Values course she was a person that we spent extensive time on — we looked at her as a model. She truly was. She was special. “The only solution was to pray.” Wow. That is ALWAYS the solution. As I consistently say, “God can do more in a moment than man can do in a lifetime.” It’s not about us — it’s about God.
Corrie ten Boom
Pg. 119, It was becoming urgently necessary to obtain more cards however they could. A name popped into Corrie Ten Boom’s head: Fred Koornstra, the father of a girl who attended the religious services Corrie held for the intellectually challenged. Koornstra now worked at the Food Office, where ration books were issued.
Praying that God would close her lips if Fred could not be trusted, Corrie told him they had some unexpected guests — Jewish guests. They needed ration cards. Could he help? Fred was sympathetic.
Pg. 120, The only solution was to pray. They had no doubt that God was real and that he wanted them to continue doing what they were doing.
Pg. 136, Corrie remembered that forgiveness is an act of the will — not an emotion. “Jesus, help me!” she prayed. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.” Corrie thrust out her hand.
“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart.”
For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then. But even so, I realized it was not my love. I had tried, and did not have the power. It was the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Throughout a book by Dick Gregory, he dove into the true history of Rosa Parks. Rosa was involved in many different things, she was the leader of an organization, and she was a beloved member of her community. It was absolutely incredible that the community boycotted the bus system for 381 days — that’s dedication. When people act in unison, it’s amazing what can be accomplished. Just imagine if we were actually one nation united under God. UNDER GOD. That means HIS will is done NOT ours. Crazy thoughts but it’s possible, we need to be the examples.
Pg. 151, “(Being withheld a drink of water at the police station) made me angry,” Rosa later wrote, and the incident made her think of the Roman soldiers who had given the thirsty Christ vinegar to drink as he hung on the cross. She asked if she could use the telephone and was told she could not. More racism, she thought.
Pg. 155, Quite incredibly the black community was able to continue the boycott for 381 days. In all that time, no blacks in Montgomery took the buses, ever. It’s difficult to imagine how they did it, but the boycott continued, despite harassment from white police officers.
Pg. 157, When the boycott was over, the press asked Rosa to get on a bus and sit in the front seat so they could take pictures of her, which she did. A white male reporter proudly sat behind her to make the point that the days of blacks going to the back of the bus were over.
One of the most loved figures from recent history, Mother Teresa was an incredible woman. She did things that many could not even imagine. Take a moment, think. Could you honestly see Jesus in every man, woman, or child that you encountered today? With God — yes. By man — no. I admire her courageousness. She accepted the Nobel Peace Prize and spoke out against abortion. She did the same when speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC. Not many people would even consider having that kind of strength. As I learned more about her life and all that she was able to accomplish, I know with confidence that she could never have done those things without the constant presence of God in her life. She truly was an amazing person and someone whose heart beat not for herself or her desires but for God.
Pg. 168, Mother Teresa said that she saw Jesus in every man, woman, or child she met, and she treated them accordingly. She thought the biggest problem on earth was being unloved; and if, in her exhaustion, all she could offer someone was a smile, she gave it.
Pg. 177, When he came out a short time later, the mob, still waiting for his instructions, asked him if they could begin what they had come to do — drive out the nuns by force. “Yes, you can,” the man replied, “but only when your sisters and your mothers do what those sisters are doing in there.”
Pg. 178, One thing that distinguished Mother Teresa as someone who truly believed in the everyday reality of God was her determination to live in a complete reliance on him — meaning that she expected miracles. And there were many of them. One day the community ran out of food. Answering a knock on the door, they found a woman holding bags of rice. The woman informed them that some “inexplicable impulse” had brought her to them with the rice. It was just enough for their evening meal.
Pg. 181, In 1968 Muggeridge became taken with Mother Teresa and decided to interview her for the BBC. This was the first time Mother Teresa was introduced to the world on a large scale. But she was nervous during the interview and gave simple answers to his published questions. In the end, the program aired on a Sunday evening. “The response was greater than (Muggerridge had) known to any comparable programme, both in mail and in contributions of money for Mother Teresa’s work. All of them said approximately the same thing — this woman spoke to me as no one ever has, and I feel I must help her. When the program aired again not long afterward, the response was greater yet, with twenty thousand pounds pouring in for the little nun with the simple answers.
Pg. 184, In 1979 one of the world’s greatest honors was bestowed on Mother Teresa when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. She decided that she would travel to Oslo, Norway, to accept the price in person. But in her typical fashion, even in this highly secular nation Mother Teresa did not hesitate to proclaim her faith to the gathering of well-dressed guests, which included Norway’s royal family. And then she took direct aim at the violence of abortion in a country that had not only legalized it but also provided state funds to pay for what she regarded as nothing less than the murder of a human child:
“The greatest destroyer of peace today. Because if a mother can kill her own child — what is left for me to kill you and kill me — there is nothing between… To me, the nations who have legalized abortion, they are the poorest nations. They are afraid of the little one! They are afraid of the unborn child, and the child must die because they don’t want to feed one more child, to educate one more child.”
She reminded her unsmiling audience of the humanity of the unborn baby:
“It was that unborn child that recognized the presence of Jesus when Mary came to visit Elizabeth, her cousin. As we read in the gospel, the moment Mary came into the house, the little one in the womb of his mother leaped with joy, recognizing the Prince of Peace.
Pg. 186, Mother Teresa reprised this peroration fifteen years later, when she was invited to be the guest speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. Addressing President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, Vice President Al Gore and Tipper Gore, members of the U.S. House and Senate, religious leaders, and the very court that had put their legal imprimatur on the violent act that had taken the lives of millions of unborn American babies, Mother Teresa said: “But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because Jesus said, if you receive a little child you receive me. So every abortion is the denial of receiving Jesus — is the neglect of recieving Jesus.”
What many news outlets left out of their coverage of her speech was the fact that, at this point, the audience burst into sustained applause. If you watch the speech on YouTube, you may see the cameras pulling back during the seemingly unending applause to reveal the Clintons and the Gores, well-known for their strong defense of abortion rights, stiff and uncomfortable on either side of Mother Teresa, refusing to applaud what she had just said and surely wishing they were somewhere else.